Educated by Tara Westover

Educated by Tara Westover

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Genuinely remarkable and reading smooth as silk, there’s nothing about this book that doesn’t take your breath away. I have had Educated on my radar for a while but picked it up only recently and then when I started reading, I couldn’t put it down. Westover’s writing is so good, so beautiful and wise and painterly, and her story is astonishing. You’ll no doubt know much of it if you’re aware of her book but if you’re not, then a brief synopsis: she grew up in rural Idaho, in a family that was ready for the end of the world, and despite everything pointing her life down a particular path, she went somewhere else entirely.

It’s difficult to comprehend some of the incidents that Westover tells here and many of them are brutal and violent and deeply, deeply shocking. She writes eloquent forewords and afterwords that give the reader guidance on the text; she explains as to why certain decisions are made (the n- word, for example features and she gives some explanation as to that), explores the recollections that other people have about certain incidents, and finally a list of the names in the text which are pseudonyms.

I did not want to put this down. I think there are moments in it where Westover wrestles with hideous things and does so in a kind of fiercely beautiful way; that her writing soars to somewhere quite remarkable whilst discussing deeply abusive situations; and that you can almost feel her education (in all senses of the world) wrapping around her shoulders like a lifebelt, holding her afloat.

Westover is also so very good on writing about love; about the relationship people can have with people, about the responsibilities we have to each other and ourself; about how to live in the world with grace and hope, even when the world seeks to drag you so very far down inside of it.

When I finished reading this, I found myself searching online for interviews with Westover. I was struck by one of the comments underneath one video in particular. It read (and I paraphrase slightly here) “is anybody else here after reading Educated and trying to gather their thoughts?” and I thought: yes. That was me. And I think I still am. Educated is a rare and beautiful piece of work and I am so very impressed by it.

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