All of a sudden, there was a whole new section in Waterstones. A new type of book. It had obviously cut a limb off the bloated sci-fi and fantasy section and took it for its own. The new genre had staked its claim, it was here to stay.
Waterstones called it PAINFUL LIVES
Now, for all I know this genre of books could have been there for a decade, but it must have been steadily growing because it’s got its own section now, and seems loom over you when you wander through the store. After a bit of research online it seems these tales are better known as MISERY MEMOIRS. The story is typically the life of an abused child, and an extensive, detailed account of her suffering and then ultimately redemption! Much pain, then a happy ending!
They’re all true stories, (or so the back text tells us) and it’s heartening to know the child grows and finds an escape. But it all just feels so seedy….
The other thing is that the entire catalogue *looks* the same. An indistinct photo of a lonely child, pastel colours on white, and always, Always … the purple or peach Hand Written font – ‘How Could She?’, ‘Why Don’t They Love Me?’, or ‘What Chance Did She Have?’ For all intents and purposes, it looks from a distance like a romance novel. Mrs Bloggs, sitting on the Northern line, obviously doesn’t want her fellow passengers to know she’s reading about a child getting systematically beaten by her own mother…. and is utterly enthralled by it.
And let’s be frank, this line of work is aimed directly at the female market – look at the packaging. What real purpose do these books serve? Is it a genuine concern for the plight of the child, or is it the gruesome details? Truth or fiction, the liberation at the end is to make the reader feel like they’re not a complete sleazebag – they’re reading this book for the uplifting conclusion, right? Right?
I’ve read a lot of true crime, and there’s obviously a lot of grim material in there, and I’ll admit it’s compelling reading. But it’s at least matter of fact, and isn’t designed to play with your emotions.
I guess this is my main scowl on these Memoirs – the feel bad/feel good direction and dubious ‘clothing’ these titles.
‘Oh that’s terrible…. oh, that’s appalling!… Go on…..’