The Instant by Amy Liptrot

Next time I pick up or listen to a memoir, someone shout at me, DON’T!

I am not a massive fan of navel gazing and of course, some memoirs are total gazers – as was this one – and it really irritated me. But, there were enough things of interest to keep me listening to the end.

Liptrot is a recovering alcoholic and this memoir spans a period of time after she became sober. She was restless and looking for love and so moved from her homeland in Scotland to Berlin. I suppose fresh start somewhere different where no one knows your past.

It is a melancholy story, relieved with humour but at its heart it is not a story of love but a story of loneliness and addictive behaviour.

In Berlin, she does meet a man who she falls in love with, deep and fast. They visit and camp out on raoundabouts in Berlin, they eat out, lie in and make plans for the future. He will visit her parents on the islands of Orkney with her, move there and there was even a whisper of children. But then he sent an email calling an end to the relationship and this left Liptrot untethered. I understand her first book is about how nature helped her overcome alcohol addiction, and in this book she uses nature to help her loneliness – watching for eagles, searching for racoons which apparantly there are many loose in the city. They were as elusive as long term love.

The other element that was interesting was the use of being online in this experience. There were the dating apps. Is there anything more depressing than re-activating a profile on a dating app? But after the break up, having a digital footprint means that you can hang on to someone much longer. You can visit their Facebook page or other social media sites, it’s called stalking, store all the emails they sent you and read them over and over again. You can track them on Strava – now we’re getting a little bit scary – and archive all the things the images, messages and videos they have sent you. You can reread everything and make it mean whatever you want and all the time, you are going over and over and over and over . . .

Eventually, right at the end of the book, Liptrot states that she understood that the man used her vulnerabilities, preyed on them and that he had form for this. She ignored the warning signs and when she really investigated him online she found a trail of broken relationships, work that he didn’t finish and so on. He did the classic thing in contacting her sometime after and asking her to keep in contact occassionally. Why didn’t that ring alarm bells? He kept her dangling, knowing what she wanted but she just wasn’t able to see it.

I understand that this was a time in Liptrot’s life – after becoming sober but not being totally altogether. Four years later she was with someone long term and had children. It was a phase but it went on for long enough in the book. The next thing I listen to needs to be a bit cheerier.

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