Rosie: Scenes from a Vanished Life by Rose Tremain review – fascinating and frustrating

Rose Tremain’s account of her unhappy upper-class childhood, from postwar London to Swiss finishing school, is more intriguing than revealing

Memoir is a peculiar thing: better than a second martini when it’s good – like that cocktail, it can make you feel at once slightly jittery and all-seeing, all-knowing – and absolutely rotten when it’s bad; as synthetic as a can of Red Bull, as pointless as a pint of cheap lager. Writers, though, seem more and more to be unable to resist it – a side-effect, perhaps, of our culture’s increasingly stubborn conflation of thought and feeling. Some devote themselves to it right from the beginning of their careers, to the exclusion of every other form (you wonder at the size of the trunk in which they lug about all these memories). Others, valuing wisdom and perspective over simple sensation, leave it until much later.

Rose Tremain, who ...