Not Speaking

By Norma Clarke

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Not Speaking is a lively and unusual family memoir, and a slice of social history.

Publication date: May 2019
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About the book

Not Speaking is a lively and unusual portrait of a large family.

Families are places of love, care, and fun; also of anger, anxiety, trauma. I wrote this book at a particular moment in my family’s history, when love slammed into anger and they erupted together into a major quarrel amongst siblings. Most people know how that can happen. It’s the story of a Greek matriarch and her English children in postwar London; and a tale about fame, because one of the children is a celebrity hairdresser; and money, because the family started out with very little and some of the children now have lots; and about books, because I am a writer and a book-lover; and about a man from the slums of Blackfriars who grew up in poverty and didn’t want to become a father at all, who was dearly loved by all six children, and especially the one (as the reader discovers) who wasn’t biologically his.

Over the past thirty years I’ve published with a variety of mainstream publishers – Routledge, Faber and Faber, A&C Black, Random House, Harvard University Press – but I’ve never tried to publish a memoir. I decided to go to Unbound because I wanted to reach out directly to readers. This has been, without question, the most enjoyable book to write. I found a form I could put everything into, a capacious frame for a story I always wanted to write, that never stayed still, that was by turns funny and sad but never predictable, never dull.

Praise for Not Speaking:

‘Clarke tells the family’s story brilliantly – everyone and no-one is to blame for everything.’

‘there are few if any accounts of family life that share the hunger, determination and erudition of Not Speaking – it’s a searching and resonant work of memoir and social history.’

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