Fracture by Matthew Parris. Review by our regular book reviewer, John T Morris
Many readers will have suffered relationships, accidents or emotional experiences which have negatively affected them or others. Fracture: Trauma, Success and the Origins of Greatness by Matthew Parris is a thought-provoking and engaging book that takes the reader on an absorbing journey through all these situations.
“Great Lives Take Root in Trauma”
Matthew Parris is a distinguished journalist and presenter of the Great Lives series on BBC Radio 4. He analyses each guest’s choice alongside the evidence of an expert witness. After looking at more than 400 lives over more than 14 years, Parris has noticed a recurring pattern of fractured childhoods among his subjects.
Parris reviews the evidence to substantiate how “great lives take root in trauma”. The book looks back at the lives of deceased individuals from the ancient or recent past as chosen by guest interviewees.
Category of Trauma Experienced
The author examines the experiences endured within each category of trauma experienced (affliction, isolation, chaos, cruelty and shock) and how each individual has achieved greatness.
He deduces that calamitous early years in a person’s development can release extraordinary qualities, such as genius or greatness.
Chaplin, Lennon and Piaf
The analysis of these stories hypothesises that “genius emerges due to torments experienced” and explore how the individual managed to crawl through “the wreckage”.
For example, Charlie Chaplin ended up in an institute for destitute children at the age of seven. There, he endured humiliation, suffering and betrayal, in particular, due to his mother failing to visit him.
In John Lennon’s life “fracture”, his experiences were due to the chaos in his family life and his inability to grow close to his mother.
Chaos was also a key feature in the childhood of Edith Piaf. Her mother abandoned her at birth and her father’s mother, a “madame” at a Normandy brothel, brought her up. Her guttural singing voice and heartfelt performances touched audiences’ lives and hinted at what lay beneath her own life.
Other examples include Ian Wright, Mo Farah and Dr Gwyn Jones, who have experienced dark and depressing places, but have had the determination to pull themselves out.
In an excellent conclusion, Parris examines the arguments in his mind and how his self-analysis has helped him bring clarity.
It is imperative to point out that children or young adults don’t need to experience “fracture” to achieve greatness or the label of “genius”. Readers will be aware that many people who have fracture in their lives do not go on to extraordinary achievement. In fact, on occasions, they suffer emotional, physical and personal frustrations – a point made by the author.
This book is truly outstanding and will stimulate thinking about motivation, resilience, tenacity and skills to promote personal mindsets. These qualities are particularly relevant as many individuals and families face challenges and upheavals in their lives following lockdowns, social isolation and other issues as a result of Covid-19.
Publication date: 01/07/2021
Imprint: Profile Books
Subject: Biography & Memoir
About the Reviewer
John T Morris was a fitness and performance coach. He is also a graduate of Aberystwyth, Bangor, Lancaster and Open Universities.
His research was based on developing positive “growth mindsets” to promote motivation, tenacity, determination, resilience and other personal skills to improve performance levels in sport, learning and also employment.
We hope you enjoyed “Fracture by Matthew Parris”. For more of our book reviews, please click here.
About the Publisher
Andrew Franklin and Stephen Brough founded Profile Books on April Fools Day in 1996. They wanted to publish stimulating non-fiction in a wide range of fields. Consequently, Profile is now a lifelong home for authors and create books that surprise, delight and endure.