Fragments of my Father: A memoir of madness, love and being a carer by Sam Mills

Fragments of my Father: A memoir of madness, love and being a carer by Sam Mills


My life had been suspended, as though I had inhaled and was still waiting to let out that gasp of breath. I set aside my dreams for a future time when life might be normal again. But that night, on my mother’s birthday, as I sat and watched the sky turn from blue to black, I wondered for the first time if it ever would …

There were holes in Sam Mills’s life when she was growing up – times when her dad was just absent, for reasons she didn’t understand. As she grew older, she began to make up stories about the periods when he wasn’t around: that he’d been abducted, spirited away and held captive by a mysterious tribe who lived at the bottom of the garden. The truth – that he suffers from a rare form of paranoid schizophrenia, and was hospitalised intermittently – slowly came into focus, and that focus became pin-sharp in 2012, when Sam’s mother died and Sam was left as his primary carer.

In this powerful, poignant memoir Sam triangulates her own experience with the stories of two other carers, one she admires and one, on some days, she fears she might become: Leonard Woolf, husband to Virginia and F Scott Fitzgerald, husband to Zelda, and a man whose personality made him ill-equipped – in a great many ways – to be a carer for his troubled wife.

A mesmerising blend of literary biography and memoir The Fragments of My Father is a compelling and moving account of what it means to be a carer.

My Review:

I am extremely grateful to have been asked to review the shortlisted books on The 2020 Barbellion Prize shortlist. The Fragments of My Father (Fourth Estate) by Sam Mills is an extremely beautifully written memoir about caring for her father. Inside there are some very wise words and about her own life suspended as she cares for a loved one.

Sam Mills by profession is an author and is also the co-founder and MD of indie publisher Dodo Ink. When her mother died in 2012 Sam became the carer for her father, who was suffering from a rare form of schizophrenia. This meant putting her life plans on hold while she became carer with the financial implications that go with being a carer for a loved one as well as the challenges of this illness.

Through Fragments of My Father we see Sam’s own personal journey, but also she tells us of others who have become the primary carer and as Sam is an author she shares stories of Leonard Woolf the husband of Virginia Woolf and F. Scott Fitzgerald husband of Zelda who also became carers themselves.

As a primary carer what many do not realise is the loneliness that goes with being a carer and at times being cut off from the outside world as well as the lack of financial support, Sam does make the case that the government needs to step up to help those who have become primary carers.

For anyone who has been in a similar position this poignant memoir will be like a supporting arm around you. Sam’s writing about caring for her father is brave but beautiful.

Fragments of My Father is profound and important, as Sam points out that she was not sure about writing this, I like many are pleased she did.

416 Pages.

I am extremely grateful to Cat Mitchell, Fourth Estate and the Barbellion Prize review copy of Fragments of my Father: A memoir of madness, love and being a carer by Sam Mills

Fragments of my Father: A memoir of madness, love and being a carer by Sam Mills

is published by Fourth Estate and was published on 9th July 2020 and is available to order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop or through that supports your local independent bookshop. UK