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This Time Next Year We'll Be Laughing: A Memoir

Review

This Time Next Year We'll Be Laughing: A Memoir

Award-winning novelist Jacqueline Winspear, creator of the Maisie Dobbs mysteries, examines mysteries from her own life in this evocative memoir.

Winspear was born in England, the daughter of working-class parents who moved often and showed, she now realizes, a good deal more verve and adventurous spirit than she ever could have understood as a child. They once had lived in a “black hut” in the woods and then in a gypsy caravan where they and toddler Jackie worked alongside Romany travelers harvesting hops during especially harsh weather.

"Walking with [Winspear] through this complex thicket of rumination and reminiscence offers readers a chance to understand more about the writing process, while revealing details of a family heritage well worth recording."

When Winspear’s strong-willed mother tore the skin off her hands in an accident with a blade, a gypsy neighbor taught her how to make and sell flower arrangements to help the little family survive. Her mother then happily dressed like a Romany and even used bits of their language to purvey her wares. For his part, Winspear’s father --- the son of a World War I veteran with deep-seated mental and physical scarring, and himself a soldier in World War II --- chopped wood, saved every penny and embraced rural life.

Medical conditions plagued the family. Winspear’s younger brother nearly died from a bursting appendix. When her mother developed a debilitating thyroid condition, Winspear also talked to a doctor about the fact that she saw double, which she had taken as normal. Soon she was undergoing serious ophthalmic treatments for migraines. She also learned that she had secondary PTSD related to hearing her mother’s harrowing wartime tales of narrowly surviving the bombings of the Blitz.

Almost as soon as she could read and had a chance to attend school regularly, Winspear knew she wanted to be a writer. Her social class was a handicap in pursuing her educational goals, and later --- perhaps echoing her parents’ zestful approach to life (her father’s oft-repeated phrase comprises the book’s title) --- she immigrated to the U.S. where her writing career began in earnest. 

Many stories in Winspear’s lively memoir will remind her readers of episodes from the Maisie Dobbs series. As she offers her recollections, more by theme than chronology, she also steps back to explore her motivations and corroborate her memories, some of which seem almost impossibly clear, while others, though plausible, have turned out by her investigations to be inaccurate. Walking with her through this complex thicket of rumination and reminiscence offers readers a chance to understand more about the writing process, while revealing details of a family heritage well worth recording.

Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott on November 13, 2020

This Time Next Year We'll Be Laughing: A Memoir
by Jacqueline Winspear

  • Publication Date: November 10, 2020
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Soho Press
  • ISBN-10: 1641292695
  • ISBN-13: 9781641292696