Suzanne Covich grew up in a small rural community in Tasmania. She had an ever-increasing number of brothers and sisters and they seemed to live in an idyllic valley where children looked after each other as they roamed free. But very early on in the extraordinary memoir of her childhood, a feeling of foreboding casts a shadow over their Huck Finn adventures. Suzanne recounts a constant sense of being watched as she becomes more aware of the family dynamics and harrowing activities that are going on behind closed doors.
Being highly intelligent and dux of her primary school did not save Suzanne from being pulled into a vortex of violence, deception and denial. She describes feeling ‘like a kid full of holes’ but what went on in her family home was unknown to the rest of the world. ‘How quickly fiction steps in to explain the awful things that go on in some people’s houses’, she writes.
Suzanne later told her own children not to forget where they were from but she had cut herself off from the ‘indescribable sense of helplessness trapped within her with nowhere to go for years.’ More than half a lifetime later, she revisited the nightmare that was her childhood and inhabited her vulnerable childhood persona to record what she and her siblings lived through. Suzanne told her childhood friends that one day she would be a real writer and this compelling autobiography has fulfilled that promise.
As a popular song reminds us – what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. This is one iron maiden that has lived with so many dark beasts and she has been brave enough to drag them out of the depths of time and confront them. Not only that – she is sharing her battle with the world and letting us know that ‘anger can do a heck of a lot more than sorry’ as she told everyone at the book’s launch.
When We Remember They Call Us Liars by Suzanne Covich is available from Fremantle Press
Review: Lezly Herbert, Images: Claire Alexander