A memoir

By Sigrid Rausing

Addiction, Family, Memoir


Published by Hamish Hamilton

Shortlist 2018

A searing memoir about the impact of addiction on a family.


In the summer of 2012 a woman named Eva was found dead from a drug overdose in a London townhouse. Now, writing with singular clarity and restraint, writer and publisher Sigrid Rausing tries to make sense of what happened.

‘Mayhem’ is a deeply personal memoir, and an attempt to understand the deadly and elusive syndrome of addiction. Rausing’s anthropological training informs the writing – the book is as sceptical and incisive as it is lyrical. She raises questions, and resists easy answers, drawing us into a deceptively simple structure. Addiction is a family disease, and Rausing gradually reveals its subtle dysfunctions, until we come to understand the text, the quest itself, as a sign of the author’s almost invisible entanglement in the disease. The mystery that unravels is that of Rausing’s own journey – the story of addiction from the point of view of a family member. It is a story that almost by definition has no resolution – the causation and course of the disease are rarely discovered. Rausing ends her book with a meditation on an art show in New York, entitled ‘Unfinished’ – an apt end to a book that is both a work of art and an investigation.

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