Emma Brockes

Add to shortlist

Books

Assistant: Eli Keren

Film, TV & Theatre

Assistant : Florence Hyde

Books

Emma Brockes is a feature writer at the Guardian. She studied English at Oxford University, where she edited Cherwell, the student newspaper, won the Philip Geddes Prize for Journalism, and graduated with a first. In 2001 she won Young Journalist of the Year at the British Press Awards. In 2002 she was voted Feature Writer of the Year, the youngest ever recipient of the award. Outside journalism she has written a one act play called THE PROMPT, which was performed at the Old Vic as part of their New Voices season. In 2006 Channel 4 made a half hour programme about her as part of their From The Top series.

www.emmabrockes.com

 

Current publication:

AN EXCELLENT CHOICE - FABER & FABER - July 2018

When British journalist, memoirist, and New York-transplant Emma Brockes decides to become pregnant, she quickly realises that, being single, 37, and in the early stages of a same-sex relationship, she's going to have to be untraditional about it. From the moment she decides to stop "futzing" around, have her eggs counted, and "get cracking"; through multiple trials of IUI, which she is intrigued to learn can be purchased in bulk packages, just like Costco; to the births of her twins, which her girlfriend gamely documents with her iPhone and selfie-stick, Brockes is never any less than bluntly honest about her extraordinary journey to motherhood.

She quizzes her friends on the pros and cons of personally knowing one's sperm donor, grapples with esoteric medical jargon and the existential brain-melt of flipping through donor catalogues and conjures with the politics of her Libertarian OB/GYN-all the while exploring the cultural circumstances and choices that have brought her to this point. Brockes writes with charming self-effacing humour about being a British woman undergoing fertility treatment in the US, poking fun at the starkly different attitude of Americans. Anxious that biological children might not be possible, she wonders, should she resent society for how it regards and treats women who try and fail to have children?

Brockes deftly uses her own story to examine how and why an increasing number of women are using fertility treatments in order to become parents-and are doing it solo. Bringing the reader every step of the way with mordant wit and remarkable candour, Brockes shares the frustrations, embarrassments, surprises, and, finally, joys of her momentous and excellent choice.

Praise for AN EXCELLENT CHOICE:

"[A] splendid and fascinating book. [Brockes's] memoir is subtitled 'Panic and Joy on My Solo Path to Motherhood, ' but I saw no time when Brockes -- supremely confident, sensible and twice as smart as anyone else in the room -- panicked. She is cool, methodical and, at times, insanely funny, with a great eye for the ironies and amusements of life...There is no doubt that her decision -- at least for us readers -- was an excellent one indeed." --Minneapolis Star Tribune

"The book speaks to a growing contingent of would-be parents who reach their 30s and 40s and find they have the means and motivation to have kids outside of a conventional domestic partnership, embracing their chosen single parenthood as a form of empowerment. It seems as if almost everyone bearing a child is writing a book about it, but Brockes is too original a personality to fall in quietly with the rest. A disarming and casually hilarious take on the opposite of co-parenting." --Kirkus

"Brockes' second memoir will have readers caught up in the excitement and anxiety of pregnancy along with her. Her humor and empathy shine through, even during her most challenging moments. Whether parents, aspiring parents, or happily child-free, readers will enjoy Brockes' intimate story of how she became a mother." --Booklist

"[A] thoughtful memoir...Brockes takes readers on a fascinating and sometimes frustrating journey through fertility treatments, dashed hopes and delays, often accenting her tale with clever comparisons of the American and the British health care systems...An uplifting, well-told story, in which Brockes walks the fine line between surrendering to chance (i.e., not one but two babies) and taking charge to make tough but excellent choices." --Publishers Weekly

"I don't know whether to love Emma Brockes more as a writer or a human being. Why can't we all face life with her courage, grace, and shockingly good sense of humor?"
--Lauren Collins, author of When in French

"Emma Brockes is a spiky, smart and ferocious writer. Her quest to become a mother is alternately harrowing and hilarious." 
--Pamela Druckerman, author of Bringing Up Bébé and There Are No Grown-ups 

"Witty, irreverent, and wickedly perceptive, An Excellent Choice illuminates not one, but a whole host of still quasi-taboo topics from sperm donors to assisted reproduction. Emma Brockes is a beautiful writer, a wonderful story-teller, and a keen observer of human nature."
--Amy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and Political Tribes

 

Previous publication:

SHE LEFT ME THE GUN - FABER & FABER - APRIL 2013

Radio 4 Book of the Week

When Emma Brockes was ten years old, her mother said  'One day I will tell you the story of my life and you will be amazed." 

Growing up in a tranquil English village, Emma knew very little of her mother's life before her. She knew Paula had grown up in South Africa and had seven siblings. She had been told stories about deadly snakes and hailstones the size of golf balls. There was mention, once, of a trial. But most of the past was a mystery.
 
When her mother dies of cancer, Emma - by then a successful journalist at the Guardian - is free to investigate the untold story. Her search begins in the Colindale library but then takes her to South Africa, to the extended family she has never met and their accounts of a childhood so different to her own.
She encounters versions of the life her mother chose to leave behind - and realises what a gift her mother gave her.
 
Part investigation, part travelogue, part elegy, SHE LEFT ME THE GUN is a gripping, funny and clear-eyed account of a writer's search for her mother's story.

Praise for SHE LEFT ME THE GUN:

"full of intellect and feeling and dartlike expression. It’s one of those memoirs that remind you why you liked memoirs in the first place, back before every featherhead in your writers’ group was trying to peddle one. It has the density of a very good novel... it is also the story of the author’s own life, one that she relates with intensity and wit... As you do with the best writers, you feel lucky to be in Ms. Brockes’s company throughout.” Dwight Garner, New York Times

"a daughter’s gripping, compassionate investigation into a past from which her mother had shielded her with ferocious, quietly fraught love... In lesser hands, the story of this family might easily have been tawdry, or depressing, or vengeful. It is none of those... Brockes has a professional’s exquisite eye for the telling detail, but the personal gaze is a different thing altogether... Brockes has wrought from this an intelligent, often dryly funny page turner that is as steadily affectionate as it is occasionally heartbreaking." The Boston Globe

"vital writing." Salon

"The fantastic She Left Me the Gun... this consummate piece of writing, originating from the death of her mother, manages to encompass memoir, family history, travel writing, investigative journalism and a moving meditation on grief and loss... Heartbreaking and inspiring in equal measure." Doug Johnstone, Big Issue in Scotland

"She Left Me The Gun is a triumph for three reasons. The first is the voice. Brockes is often very funny... Then there is the material itself - not just the story of Paula's childhood but that of the lives of her extraordinary siblings... Finally, there is Brockes's fearlessness and her resistance to glib interpretation of the facts that are often tantalisingly opaque." Claire Lowdon, New Statesman

"An amazing and harrowing story. In Emma Brockes's consummate, Joan Didionesque prose, it becomes a surpassingly rich meditation on family, endurance, secrecy, trauma, guilt, strength and love... Intensely personal, but it is also a beautifully written and, ultimately, a redemptive book: deeply impressive, deeply painful, deeply true." Kevin Power, Sunday Business Post

"an exemplary family history and immensely brave... Brockes’s descriptions of South Africa and her newly discovered family (towards whom she is loyal and generously affectionate) are astute and, one feels, tempered by the tightly coiled wayward nature of the freshly grief-stricken. It makes the slow pace of the revelations all the more honourable and heartfelt. The result is a wise, tender letter of love to a mother and her incredible sense of love and ­necessary self-sufficiency." Sunday Times

"She Left Me the Gun is quite simply an extraordinary book. In the hands of any halfway decent author, this would be an incredible story... In the hands of a writer as gifted as Emma Brockes, it’s basically the perfect memoir: a riveting, authentic tale elegantly told... It’s hard not to get caught in the extremity of the human story here but Brockes never loses sight of the pathos and humour of any situation." Viv Groskop, The Telegraph

"This is a poignant, often funny, love letter to Brockes' mother."  Lee Randall, Scotsman

"Here we have a memoir, detective story and love letter revolving around a violent alcoholic and paedophile – the author's grandfather. Jimmy's crimes and their repercussions were so horrendous that at times one physically recoils from the page. It is a measure of Emma Brockes's artfulness and sensitivity that she has fashioned her material into an enjoyable narrative."  Sara Wheeler, Observer

"The late Nora Ephron suggested the title for Emma Brockes' She Left Me the Gun. Ephron... was as smart as they come in Hollywood and you only need to read the opening chapters to understand why she took such a close interest in the career of this remarkable young writer and Guardian journalist... It isn't just the story itself that sets this book apart. Brockes's prose is potent enough to do justice to the power of her insights. And although she is very good at maintaining the tension in the detective part of the story, she has an even more important ability to keep up the emotional suspense. Ephron, her mentor, would have approved."  Christena Appleyard, Literary Review

"A tender, real-life story of dark family secrets and a daughter's search for the truth." Marie Claire

"This is an exacting memoir, brutally honest and told with a wit and lucidity that counters the grim reality of her past. Fiercely unsentimental and devoid of hysteria, She Left Me the Gun is a stirring tribute to Brockes' mother and the strength of her newly discovered South African family." We Love This Book

"In true investigative journalist style, Brockes unearths the horrific but gripping truth that changed her mother’s childhood in this brave memoir." Stylist

"skilful... gripping... There's plenty of colour in the family's history [...] but what's truly affecting here is the way in which a daughter comes to recognise the full extent of her mother's resilience." Independent

"this courageous, clear-sighted book shifts between memoir and elegy as it examines the persistence of family secrets and the fragile interface between innocence and knowledge." Elizabeth Lowry, Guardian 

"[T]his soul-searching tale is a shocking trail of murder, violence, incest and betrayal that leaves her both shocked and proud ... Emma Brockes writes with dry humour and a refreshing lack of sentiment as she unravels the complex family ties that have become twisted into a difficult and at times almost impenetrable web of hidden suffering." Viv Watts, Daily Express

"She Left Me the Gun has everything: one breath-stopping odyssey within another; so many larger-than-life souls; tragedy and escape and astonishing feats of flourishing; not to mention those "darkest secrets" waiting to be uncovered.  Brockes grabbed my heart--and, thanks to the grace of her buoyant wit and seriously generous humour, gave it back to me beautifully bruised.  This is a story I'll never forget. (But the truth is, too: Brockes writes so piercingly and with such verve, I'd gladly listen to her telling any story at all.)" Andrea Ashworth

"Thank you so much for sending me Emma Brockes's new memoir. I read it absorbed and often lost in admiration. Emma handles complex family issues with great daring and an assumed nonchalance that is simply pitch-perfect. It's a terrific read, with a profound emotional residue." Norman Lebrecht

"A brave book" Claire Tomalin

"A beautiful, wise book. It deals with the some of the grimmest aspects of human experience, but it is also one of the most genuinely up-lifiting works I have read in years. Emma Brockes' superb, clear-eyed narration is an object lesson for any aspiring memoir-writer. She Left Me the Gun deserves to become a classic." Zoë Heller

"This astonishing, unsettling book examines the relationship between knowledge and love. Vigorously unsentimental, deeply absorbing, and written with fierce wit, It is an unstinting look at what it means to be innocent, at any stage of life, and how obsessively we all seek and avoid the many faces of truth." Andrew Solomon, author of Far From the Tree  

"Astonishing investigative journalism, travelogue and elegy to a mother after her death." Kate Figes, You magazine

"A beautifully written book which stirred a lot of memories about the death of my own mother and how I went searching for the truth about her after she died... I liked it a lot." Blake Morrison

"Emma Brockes sets out a delicate journey to uncover a secret locked in the heart of her own family's darkness. A harrowing tale of murder and incest emerges, unfolding by stages in this utterly compelling psychological memoir." John Berendt

"The gun was smuggled from South Africa by Emma Brockes’s mother Paula when she emigrated to England in 1960. When Emma was 10 Paula told her: “One day I will tell you the story of my life and you will be amazed.” She died without disclosing the details, so it was up to Emma, a journalist, to investigate the back story of Paula’s extended family in South Africa. The discovery of dark, violent crimes was grim enough, but in the wry, jaunty tone of this miscreant memoir there is positive resolution of past secrets and recovery of present relationships." The Times

Non-Fiction

Publication DetailsNotes
2018

Faber & Faber

When British journalist, memoirist, and New York-transplant Emma Brockes decides to become pregnant, she quickly realises that, being single, 37, and in the early stages of a same-sex relationship, she's going to have to be untraditional about it. From the moment she decides to stop "futzing" around, have her eggs counted, and "get cracking"; through multiple trials of IUI, which she is intrigued to learn can be purchased in bulk packages, just like Costco; to the births of her twins, which her girlfriend gamely documents with her iPhone and selfie-stick, Brockes is never any less than bluntly honest about her extraordinary journey to motherhood. She quizzes her friends on the pros and cons of personally knowing one's sperm donor, grapples with esoteric medical jargon and the existential brain-melt of flipping through donor catalogues and conjures with the politics of her Libertarian OB/GYN-all the while exploring the cultural circumstances and choices that have brought her to this point. Brockes writes with charming self-effacing humour about being a British woman undergoing fertility treatment in the US, poking fun at the starkly different attitude of Americans. Anxious that biological children might not be possible, she wonders, should she resent society for how it regards and treats women who try and fail to have children? Brockes deftly uses her own story to examine how and why an increasing number of women are using fertility treatments in order to become parents-and are doing it solo. Bringing the reader every step of the way with mordant wit and remarkable candour, Brockes shares the frustrations, embarrassments, surprises, and, finally, joys of her momentous and excellent choice.

2007

Transworld

Film musicals: you either love them or they make you want to kill yourself with plastic cutlery. Nothing has the power to lift your heart or turn your stomach like Howard Keep in fake sideburns singing "Bless Your Beautiful Hide" or Julie Andrews singing...anything. There are few situations where the question What Would Barbra Do? doesn't have relevance in a world which is much better lived to a soundtrack of show-tunes...

Film, TV & Theatre

Emma Brockes is represented by Charles Walker for Dramatic Rights.