The Three Burials of Lotty Kneen

Krissy Kneen

The Three Burials of Lotty Kneen
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The Three Burials of Lotty Kneen

Krissy Kneen

In her 2010 memoir, Affection, Krissy Kneen introduced readers to her unique family and the towering matriarchal figure of her grandmother. Stern, domineering, fiercely loving, Lotty Kneen-born Dragica-was always tight-lipped about her early life and family history. She rebuffed Krissy’s curiosity and forbade her from taking the trip back to the old country that might have satisfied it.

When her grandmother died recently, Krissy finally felt at liberty to explore the questions that had nagged at her for so long. In The Three Burials of Lotty Kneen Krissy sets out with a box containing her grandmother’s ashes, intending to trace the old woman’s early life in Slovenia and Egypt, and perhaps locate some remnants of family. Along the way she uncovers the extraordinary story of the colony of Slovene women who became the nannies of choice for the wealthy Italians of pre-war Alexandria-and identifies as best she can the places where Lotty’s restless, demanding spirit will be at peace.

Review

Much loved and admired author Krissy Kneen is back with another heartfelt exploration of her personal history, but because this is a Krissy Kneen book, we are taken on a greater journey than just her own. This book is an account of women’s lives – how those lives are changed and shaped into personal stories of parenting, friendships and legacy. In her earlier memoir, Affection, we met Kneen’s family, including the towering matriarchal figure of her grandmother, Dragica (Lotty) Kneen, who cast long shadows on Kneen’s own life. Lotty arrived as a migrant in Australia having escaped war. She was an extraordinarily gifted storyteller with a persistent and intense spirit that made her wonderfully suited for a creative life. She did not disclose much of her past to her family, but she did gift Kneen with her fortitude and a love of fairytales.

Kneen’s 2015 poetry collection, Eating My Grandmother, was a grief-stricken ode to her grandmother after her death. Now, this compelling and beautifully written memoir is the next chapter, formed as a deeply personal travel memoir with the obligatory photos included. Armed with her grandmother’s ashes, Kneen and her partner Anthony visit Slovenia and Egypt, the countries her grandmother lived in before she ended up in the middle of Queensland, surrounded by handmade cardboard characters from the stories she told Kneen as a child. A road map filled with many women’s voices, recipes and memories, this memoir is the evidence of Lotty’s life and legacy.

Already lauded as Kneen’s best writing yet, The Three Burials of Lotty Kneen is a portrait of resilience. Read this book because all our stories started with our mothers and our mother’s mothers. Read it because Kneen’s journey to understand her past is, in the end, universal.


Chris Gordon is the programming and events manager for Readings.

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