An aunt with secrets and many lies

The author of Kiss Myself Goodbye is Ferdinand Mount and the subject is his aunt who married into the family and who liked to be called Aunt Munca. Aunt Munca was rich, exotic and very well connected – she was also a liar and had fabricated the story of her whole life and told untrue stories about the lives of those around her. Everything the author thought that he knew about his aunt turns out to be untrue on investigation and some of the things that she did to preserve her secrets weren’t very nice (for example, she married more than once and didn’t divorce as many times as she should have).

I love a good family memoir and this is an exceptional family memoir. The author shares with us his journey of discovery and it is interesting when he compares what he finds out with what he remembers being told. Names prove to be one of his big problems because Aunt Munca changed hers a lot and misrepresented the names of others which made the quest to discover her secrets harder. It is interesting to see how easy it once was to hide your personal history and discard parts of your past that you didn’t care about.

As we find out more about the elusive aunt we can admire what she has done to escape her past and create a good life for herself and the sheer effrontery of the woman but she is definitely an opportunist who doesn’t seem to worry too much about the casualties she leaves in her wake. Sadly, her activities do impact negatively on others and especially on her adopted daughter. Others whose lives touched on that of Munca are also left damaged. In the end I actually didn’t really like the woman although I found what she did fascinating – I am not too sure that the author didn’t feel the same.

Other people’s lives always seem more interesting than your own but Munca’s is exceptional even by that standard. The story of the author’s search for the “real” story is well crafted and absolutely compelling reading. I picked this book up one afternoon and couldn’t put it down until I finished it later that evening. If you enjoy memoirs and family histories you should find this book fascinating.

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