The Three of Us is Julia Blackburn's memoir of growing up the only child of two acclaimed artists: her mother, Rosalie de Meric, an accomplished painter, and her father, Thomas Blackburn, a gifted poet who spent most of his life in academia despite being an alcoholic addicted to the barbiturate sodium amytal. While the title of the book implies that the book is about the three of them, it quickly becomes clear there are many others who intersect their lives, some with devastating effect.
Blackburn had the foresight to not only write regularly in a diary but to also keep many of them. She pieced together the changing dynamic of her relationship with her father and the tumultuous roller coaster of emotions she went through with her mother.
As Ms. Blackburn retells the story of coming of age in a house with a desperately jealous mother and a steady stream of male borders, she inserts at the end of each chapter a few paragraphs written in the current time frame. Lately, I've read several books that use this technique, but none as seamlessly as Ms. Blackburn.
This story would probably never been written if her mother hadn't been stricken with cancer and asked to come to Julia's house to spend the last month of her life. Julia, always searching for her mother's love and approval, agrees without thoroughly thinking it through.
Blackburn has a relaxed and personal writing style, making it difficult to put the book down. And, while these people may never be like any people you have known, they are very interesting.
There were only two things that bothered me about this book. The first is the Americanization of the book. These three people were English, and English people don't go to the bathroom — they go to the loo, for one example. And the other is there aren't captions for any of the many photos. While some were easy to figure out, others weren't so much.
Laurie Pitzer lives in Anniston.