Tuesday, August 21, 2012
These days, when a person of note dies you're likely to find Amazon swell with self-publish cut and paste jobs that cobble together Wikipedia pages and blog articles to create a "biography" of the dearly departed. A few people thought enough of Amy to try to make a fast buck off her name, but when I picked up a copy of Amy, My Daughter (AMZ) I noticed author Mitch Winehouse has pledged the money he makes from this book to the Amy Winehouse Foundation, established in 2011 to assist various charitable interests in the UK, in particular involving people suffering addiction. As one might expect of a memoir by a close relative, Daughter is part love letter, part therapeutic exercise. It is a short book, one you could probably read in a few days, and rather blunt in its execution. Winehouse does not wax poetic, but rather lays down what happened when, who was there, and how he felt at the time.
Some reviews I've seen of this book accuse Winehouse of presenting a one-sided story; really, would you expect different from a grieving father who claimed to invest his time and energy trying to help his daughter overcome drug addiction? Through much of the book he recalls cycles of abuse and regret, with "I'm going to stop" becoming a tired mantra of Amy's up until the end. There's also no love lost for her ex-husband, on whom he appears to have settled the blame for Amy's decline, or the ex's parents, dismissed as leeches who saw Amy more as a wallet than a member of the family.
As this story is not told from an unbiased point of view, it is difficult to get the full story, and Daughter reads like a diary in that you don't get the impression other people close to Amy contributed. It would be interesting to one day read Amy's story from different vantage points to get a fuller picture and determine one thing I didn't wholly glean from this book: how Amy started on this self-destructive path. One day early in her career she's smoking cannabis...what prompts her to start? Peer pressure, curiosity, a desire to fit in? Only one person can answer that, and unfortunately we'll never hear from her.
If you followed Amy's career more closely than I did, you may enjoy Daughter for what Winehouse likely intended it to be: a tribute. Even as he recalls moments of tension and embarrassment, there is an underlying tone of pride and love. Amy should be remembered for her music rather than the negative press, and in time hopefully history will allow for that.
Kathryn Lively is a mystery author and book blogger.