Perhaps I could have categorised the book as ‘a novel based on a true story’ but that would have put it into a fiction category and I felt that would diminish the truth of what happened. I just couldn’t do that to my mother. It is not fiction and it is not a biography. It is, as it states on the cover, a memoir. By that I mean ‘a historical account written from personal knowledge (or memory)’. The terms memoir and biography are often used interchangeably but a memoir is not usually a full biography. In general, a memoir is about a specific aspect of a person’s life while a biography is a chronological documentation of an entire life.
Ian Jack, writing in The Guardian in February 2003 states:
‘The memoir's ambition is to be interesting in itself, as a novel might be, about intimate, personal experience.’ He goes on to explain that a memoir borrows ‘...the tricks of the novel, of fiction - because it wants to do more than record the past; it wants to re-create it.’
That is what I have attempted to do. The details of some events are imagined and some conversations are also imagined (although based on personal knowledge of the people concerned). This sort of ‘gap filling’ is also done by some writers of biographies.
The book was originally categorised as a non-fiction novel. Unfortunately, Amazon does not have such a category. I understand the disappointment of readers of Whisper My Secret who expect the book to be a biography and do not get what they expect. I feel their pain! On one occasion recently a book I was looking forward to reading ‘betrayed me’. I was expecting a factual documentation about a historical figure I admired. The publishers had not made it clear that it was an imagined story of the person’s life and nowhere in the book’s information pages was that stated. I didn’t finish reading the book and I probably won’t pick up another by the same author. So, yes, I can relate to those who expected something different from Whisper My Secret.
Luckily, reviewers who perceive my mother’s story as fiction are rare. Almost all readers understand I have put the story together by gathering as many facts as possible through years of research and developing those facts into a story.
Whisper My Secret is now available in audio! Ebook and print editions are available on Amazon.