By her mid-fifties Candia McWilliam knew the meaning of suffering better than most. As a child her mother committed suicide; she lived through two failed marriages; became an alcoholic, and, yet more cruelly still, while judging the Booker Prize in 2006, started to lose her sight.
What makes her memoir impressive, however, isn't the story she has to tell - rich in drama though it is - but her artistry as a writer.
Tall, Scottish and aspiring to grandness, McWilliam gives an account of her girlhood in Edinburgh, her Cambridge years, and marriages to unconventional men, shot through with self-hatred and doubt.
Literary memoirs can be catty, but McWilliam saves the worst venom for herself.