“A frank and, at times, comic account of growing up amid extreme privilege and eccentric personalities.” —Vanity Fair
“A riveting history of a family that folds in on itself, consuming generation after generation. . . . Lowell’s compact, finely tuned paragraphs render the saga with brave urgency and courage.” —Elle
“Lowell movingly shows how a child’s love can transcend a parent’s flaws. Her empathy with her mother may be her greatest gift.” —The New York Times Book Review
“For a woman whose legacy carries an enormous fortune, a family tree cluttered with renown, and unparalleled eccentricity, Ivana Lowell is shockingly all right. . . . An impeccable memoir.” —The Daily Beast
“Ivana Lowell’s memoir is a heart-breaking account of a gifted woman, her brilliant but destructive parents, and a glamorous, aristocratic life that was laced with arsenic. That she survived and now shines as literary force in her own right is apparent from the very first page. Why Not Say What Happened? is a tour de force.” —Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire
“Compelling. . . . Careless hardly covers the reckless disregard with which these people treated those they supposedly loved.” —The Boston Globe
“Lowell takes her spot in the pantheon of modern-day heiresses with this memoir about her unbelievable life.” —More
“Will no doubt raise eyebrows. Lowell spares few details in recounting her dysfunctional childhood, which was spent in grand houses and fancy apartments, where the family lived more like hillbillies than titled Brits.” —W
“Lowell’s true achievement may lie in the unassuming way she communicates the resilience of a woman whose trials—she was sexually abused at six by her nanny’s husband, was severely burned in a childhood kitchen accident and has struggled for decades to conquer alcoholism—might have done in most people.” —The New York Times
“An exhilarating roller-coaster ride of a book, full of the sort of wonderfully terrible secrets writers seldom have the guts to tell, let alone with such an assured and beguiling candor—but then of course, Ivana’s Irish and a born writer .” —John Richardson, author of A Life of Picasso
“Searing.” —The New York Observer
“[Lowell’s] recollections of sexual abuse, a disfiguring childhood accident, rampant neglect, and alcoholism—as well as her lifelong quest to discover her true paternity—could have made for grim reading, but Lowell's writing remains conversational and refreshingly free of self-pity.” —Entertainment Weekly
“At its heart, Why Not Say What Happened?, whose title comes from one of Robert Lowell's final, bleakest poems, is a portrait of a family in freefall, a mother and her four children floating through a dizzying succession of grand but rotting houses while enduring absent fathers, sexual abuse, mental breakdown, severe injury, alcoholism and the deaths of loved ones. The only thing fending off complete devastation is the author's gleefully black sense of humor.” —The Telegraph (London)
“With walk-on parts from everyone from the Queen Mother and artist Lucian Freud to film mogul Harvey Weinstein, this book is packed with color. A brilliant memoir.” —Voyager
“[Ivana] tells her story with verve and wit, and I loved every minute of it.” —Ann LaFarge, Hudson Valley News
“Shocking and hilarious, this elegantly lucid memoir by Ivana Lowell is that lethal mix of British aristocracy, giant fortunes, huge freezing houses, beautiful women jagged with sophistication, pedophilia, mysterious paternity, cruelty and yes, cocktails. We are reminded of the plays of Oscar Wilde and novels from Ronald Firbank to Evelyn Waugh as we are introduced to a lively and unlikely mix that includes the Queen Mother and Harvey and Bob Weinstein. . . . Lowell is impressive and touching in sparing us none of this tragicomedy, least of all herself.” —Mike Nichols
Named after a line from a poem by Robert Lowell, her mother's third husband and an important stabilizing presence in her early life, this self-searching, poor-little-rich-girl story is, in ways, a search for a father. Alcoholism ran through Ivana Lowell's family, the descendants of the Guinness beer fortune; her fabulous grandmother, Maureen, married royalty, and cultivated "talented snobs," while her mother, novelist Lady Caroline Blackwood, who had grown up in northern Ireland, crossed into bohemia by first marrying Lucian Freud, then composer Israel Citkowitz. Moving between New York's Greenwich Village and London, her mother also had affairs with English screenwriter Ivan Moffat and New York Review of Books editor Robert Silvers, so it was never clear who was the author's father.After her mother's marriage to Robert Lowell, the family lived in a rustic house in Kent; there, the author was sexually molested by a caretaker. Lowell embarked on her own destructive drinking while at various boarding schools, attended drama school, and ended up in New York working for Harvey and Bob Weinstein's Miramax. In alternate chapters she chronicles her extensive rehab over the years, her voice stripped of all vanity and self-pity, revealing a near palpable relief in baring the unlovely details. (Nov.)
Unflinching memoir about growing up affluent and unhappy in Britain.
All she wanted was a normal, suburban existence. But for Lowell, under the veneer of privilege as the daughter of a wealthy heiress lay many miserable years of alcoholism, benign neglect and emotional turmoil. Family, household, relationships—all suffered from the "family problem." With an aristocratic pedigree that stretched back centuries, Lowell spent the public part of her young life attending balls and having tea with royals, and the rest of it tiptoeing around her volatile mother in a series of ramshackle mansions. Her mother, arguably the main character of the book, could be self-absorbed, overly dramatic, conniving, exasperating, socially awkward and remarkably unmaternal. It is telling that one of her mother's husbands, the poet Robert Lowell, with his crippling bouts of mania and mental illness, emerges as the most stable person in her childhood. Scarred literally and figuratively by her childhood, she nevertheless grew into a powerful and privileged young woman, hobnobbing with royalty, movie stars, artists and writers, and even dating Harvey Weinstein. But eventually substance abuse got to her, too, and she spent years bouncing in and out of rehab facilities. After her mother's death, she encountered the mystery of her own paternity, a theme explored in the last few chapters. Part of the narrative's power comes from the fact that the narrator, though certainly recovering, is not quite out of the woods yet, and she doesn't speak with illusions of perfect hindsight. Her keenly honest descriptions of her extraordinary circumstances keep the narrative moving swiftly. The other part of the story's allure—perhaps ironically for a book that shows how privilege doesn't always bring happiness or contentment—is the glamorous crowd that surrounded her. Lowell never tries to impress us, but her life undoubtedly makes for a juicy read.
An unsettling yet entertaining chronicle of an exceptional life.