2 Ennerdale Drive
A missed family funeral and too many phone calls going nowhere, except to 2 Ennerdale Drive. Who will play detective?
2 Ennerdale Drive is a memoir of a house and the family that lived there; a work of text and image encompassing architecture, social and personal history, town planning, photography and representation, carving a space within and between new forms of memoir, cultural studies and creative non-fiction. The house in north London, built during the phenomenal interwar wave of suburban development, begins an exploration of public and private lives, architectural and family narrative, charting territory between documented evidence, personal and cultural memory, association and emotional response.
2 Ennerdale Drive questions the veracity accorded to documents produced across institutional, public and private family contexts. Textual analyses of images relating to the house, the family (and its business: theatre) frame each chapter, generating stories and responses to the factual and the remembered. Visits to archives and to other houses document the existence and/or absence of such material. An epilogue locates the author, a family member and sometime narrator, in the frame and offers, perhaps, a final privileged glance into the family archive.
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It may or may not have escaped attention (though it has not escaped the attention of the Oxonian Review) that Zero Books is having an extraordinarily good run at the moment - so heres plugs for four I think especially worth plugging. …
Three books on film, in the loosest sense … More domestic, albeit deceptively so: Rosa Ainleys irascible, brief-yet-capacious 2 Ennerdale Drive, an unauthorised biography of a suburban house in Colindale. Into this frame she crams a trenchant analysis of suburbia itself, both against those who would condemn it and against those who would celebrate it, an Angela Carter-esque saga of acting dynasties, and a smartly Benjaminian take on the ubiquitous family history genre.~ Owen Hatherley, , sit down man, you're a bloody tragedy, http://nastybrutalistandshort.blogspot.com/
I devoured this fascinating and very unusual book in one sitting and then went straight back to the beginning to re-read it more carefully. By no means an easy read, it is one I know I'll return to again and again.
Although I was already familiar with some of the stories of the Ainley acting 'dynasty', the book is much more than a series of theatrical memoirs. Complex and thought-provoking, it appeals on many levels, touching on social as well as theatre history, exploring the complicated relationship between a family and its homes and articulately expressing the joys - and the frustrations - of historical research.
Rosa Ainley's densely patterned (and often very poetic) prose conveys the zeal behind her quest to link the histories of three generations of her family but also expresses the frustrations which come with the realisation that - inevitably - there are always going to be questions which remain unanswered.
A beautifully produced book too, elegantly stylish(although I do have a slightly pedantic niggle with the American spellings - why can't an Anglo-American publisher like Zer0 use English ones, especially when the book has such an 'English' subject? Still, the quality of the content more than makes up for this!)
2 Ennerdale Drive tells the story of the author's family through the spaces of their lives, weaving the texture of personalities – some touching, many eccentric – out of the well-worn details of London's built fabric. Part social and architectural history, part personal memoir, Rosa Ainley takes the reader on a fascinating journey through her past which is both touching and bright. She digs deep, in search of lost moments, into the intimate corners of her private life. And yet the anecdotes she recounts, the photographs she muses over, and the homes she visits, are not only of interest to a member of the Ainley family, they offer a humorous and intelligent view of London's recent architectural past, suburban and theatrical, and a critical reflection on what it is to write a biography of one's own family.~ Professor Jane Rendell, The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL (University College London)