|Patch Work / Claire Wilcox
London: Bloomsbury, 2021
I've been wanting to read this book for a while, so was quite happy to have come across a copy of it and snapped it up. It's a thoughtful read, part memoir and part textiles -- the author works in museums in the textile field so her life and the theme of textiles as memory and part of daily life are interwoven.
I know some readers didn't want so much personal info, but I really liked it. The chapters were short sections; it felt at times like some were long prose poems. I found it very quieting reading - I slowed down and considered what she was sharing, and found many moments beautiful.
Because she works at the Victoria & Albert, there are decades of clothing and textiles that she and her colleagues work on. And with that comes, necessarily, a consideration of time and what it does to our lives and to the remainders, the textile ghosts we leave behind. This is "patchworked" in to stories of her own life, her childhood surrounded by sewing, her own journeys, her children and so on. None of the stories are chronological -- they are just shared as they come to mind, it feels. The sections are like vivid recollections, the stories of important moments that you tell in life, not all orderly but as they occur to you. There are also a few black and white photos interspersed and that adds to the haunting feel of nostalgia, memory, and the past that permeates her work and her storytelling.
I liked the writing style, and found the arrangement of the book reflected the themes. Moving backward and forward in time, capturing what could be captured, sharing the stories behind things -- all of this has to do with the textiles she works with as well. And somehow never being able to get a firm grasp on the real story of anything... I felt the style added to the content here, although it did put off a few readers, judging from other reviews.
But if you are interested in the more esoteric meanings of clothing, time, and history, and you love a beautiful writing style, you might like this one as much as I did. My degree was in English and History, and my current obsessions are all textile based, so perhaps this one just checks all my boxes. If you need to slow down a bit, and dream, and read small bits at a time, pick this up. This is one that I would dip into again; it's easy to pick up and read a section and put down again, just to savour one moment. I was enchanted with this read.
A very good feature and interview at the Guardian if you are interested in learning more.