Books: Pick Of The Week

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The Independent Culture
"I was having dinner with a friend," says Cheryl Moskowitz (right), who'll read from her first novel, Wyoming Trail, at Hornsey Library on Wednesday, "and she said my life would make a great story. But I didn't want to write my life, although I didn't mind using it as a starting point."

So she wrote what she calls a "fictionalised autobiography". Wyoming Trail is the story of Francine, who, like Moskowitz, spends the first 11 years of her life in the US, before being uprooted to Swinging Sixties London, where Francine's abusive, unpredictable, but loved father abandons his wife and three daughters.

"I wanted to take a step back," she says,"and look at what happened to an identity when it was displaced, both physically - by moving to a different country and culture - and also by family break-up." So the novel explores Francine's experiences of anorexia, university, and the attempts at reconciliation with her father.

What differentiates Moskowitz's novel from the standard first novel is its final segment, which, skipping Francine's mid-life experiences of marriage and children, finds her elderly and confused in a hospital or a nursing home (we're not told which) either post-stroke or mid-Alzheimer's.

"I'm interested in memory. A lot of my research was just trying to recall things, while knowing that the way I recalled them might not be the way they really happened. That was also my impetus for writing the third part. Losing my mind or memory is a big fear. So, I wrote it partly as exorcism, partly as exploration, putting Francine in quite a disjointed, disintegrated state, but working towards some kind of integration."

Cheryl Moskowitz, Hornsey Library, Haringey Park, Crouch End, London N8 (0181-348 3351) Weds, free. `Wyoming Trail' is published in paperback by Granta on Fri