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Books

Book review

‘She Left Me the Gun’ by Emma Brockes

Nora Ephron concocted the title, redolent as it is of noir romance. That much the acknowledgments tell us at the close of “She Left Me the Gun,” a book that opens with talk of a crime and our first glimpse of the perpetrator. But this is not pulp fiction. It is, rather, a daughter’s gripping, compassionate investigation into a past from which her mother had shielded her with ferocious, quietly fraught love.

“He was a talented carpenter, a talented artist, a convicted murderer and a very bad poet,” British journalist Emma Brockes writes, introducing us to her grandfather, Jimmy, whose depraved and vicious heart pumped a poison through his family that remained long after he was gone. Brockes guesses that her grandmother, Sarah, had no idea, in 1930s South Africa, that she’d married a killer. “Which is a shame. It would have been useful information to have had when, as she lay dying, she was deciding with whom to leave my two-year-old mother.”

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