The Long Vacation: A Memoir by Rosemary Dinnage
Lulu Books, London 2012
A Review by Nic Bayley
Readers of Sitegeist are likely to be familiar with this author without necessarily knowing it. Rosemary Dinnage has reviewed books for papers in London and New York for many years, specialising in psychotherapy. This lifelong work, combined with her books on Annie Besant, on patient’s accounts of psychotherapy, on death, on ‘outsider women’ and on Buddhism led to her being listed in The Observer newspaper’s list of the top 300 British intellectuals in 2011. And now, tacitly following Bion, her memoir. The comparison with Bion goes deeper than the title, for there are similarities in the life stories – at least in the origins in childhood – and in the tone of both writers. But whereas Bion’s autobiography (The Long Week-End) is written by an analyst, Dinnage’s is by an analysand. The differences, as well as the similarities, are fascinating.
It may be no coincidence that such voracious readers as Bion and Dinnage echo Raymond Chandler in their choice of titles. The Long Goodbye is partly autobiographical as well as carrying biting social criticism. It was written while its author, prone to suicidal depression, lived agonizingly through his wife’s terminal illness. Dinnage, too, has struggled with misfortune and depression but found optimism in writing.
Like Bion, Dinnage has spent her life immersed in books and she writes with clarity, insight and poetic beauty and, again like Bion, though about 25 years later, Dinnage was born into a Victorian colonial family and sent overseas at a young age. Ironically enough, after an early childhood in which her parents were often away from home and frequently overseas, Dinnage was one of the children of academics whose parents thought Oxford not safe enough during the Second World War: she was sent across the Atlantic to Canada. She writes of how she suffered throughout the rest of her life from alienation, depressive episodes and difficulty in maintaining relationships. Her analysts were variable in effectiveness until she persuaded Winnicott to see her in the last year of his life.