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Hanne, reading on Cloud 9

Avid book reader. Lover of fantasy, contemporary fiction, short stories and non-fiction. This blog is a work in progress - and it will likely always be that way.

Review: Pigs Can't Swim

Pigs Can't Swim: A Memoir - Helen Peppe

Helen Peppe grew up on a farm in Maine as the youngest of 9 children. With many siblings much older than her, there are a lot of things going on that she cannot grasp. She’s an innocent and gullible kid, and the combination of taking things very literal while also having an active imagination, makes the world a hard nut to crack. Not that anyone is helping, because the child’s questions are generally ignored. As she remarks herself: “It was, it seemed, my family’s intent to keep me uninformed and confused.”


It never becomes a tale of misery or drama though. I think of this more as a feel-good book than anything else: no one is normal, but Peppe’s childhood takes the cake. I'm still smiling at the thought of many scenes, but one of my favourites is when her father asks her mother: “Why in God’s name does Helen think we’re related to chimpanzees?”


Despite most of it being funny and charming, there are some darker parts that are harder to take. One in particular had me gasping in disbelief at her parent’s non-reaction, and her own belief that nothing was said about it because ‘she didn’t want to go to jail’. No-one apparently had protected the child against something in which she was the victim, and not the wrongdoer.


The book starts very strong, loses some speed in the middle but picks up again when Peppe retells her teenage years. Throughout the book, her use of language is excellent though, resulting in a large amount of highlighted sections on my e-reader.

I could however never quite shake the feeling that this is a collection of childhood stories, rather than a memoir novel. The chapters feel quite disjointed and even within a chapter I sometimes missed a certain flow. It felt more like a regular feature in a magazine – still, it would be one I'd read on a weekly basis with pleasure.



Disclaimer: A review copy was provided to me by the publisher, but does not sway my rating. The review reflects my own experience and opinion. All quotes are taken from the pre-published copy and may be altered or omitted from the final copy.