Isobel Jackson Sharkey  Blown Like A Leaf 2
©Words - Rhiannon Daniel.

Brighton Arts Co-op Founder Isobel Jackson Sharkey isn’t a major celebrity, so you might wonder why I decided to review her autobiography: Blown Like A Leaf: (Imprint: Handmade By Zealots.)

/Isobel Jackson Sharkey  Blown Like A LeafBut it’s precisely because there is no predetermined, PR-massaged profile to appear to dismantle that this book is so compelling.It’s like a good quality TV soap – it draws you in because this really could be your life and, hell, there are bits in it for most of us that ARE our lives and one thing about the human condition is that we are desperate for tips on functionality from others even if we wouldn’t admit it under torture.

But it’s no idle prurience that made me read this book in just 3 hours. It’s very well put together for a first publish, and I hope she writes more.There’s an old quote that starts: “Take the large and formidable and know that it has its origins in the small and personal”…. for holistically, within each cell in the microcosm is encapsulated the macrocosm and Isobel’s journeys are manifold, a woman’s journey, an adoptee’s journey, a lovers journey, a teacher’s journey, the metaphor of a leaf blown around in the culture in which we live is full of unintended (or maybe that’s not true I shall have to ask her!) metaphors for the wobbly path we’re all on. To have the wisdom to know how little control we have is paradoxically very powerful.

Apart from gifted poisoners from Victorian melodramas, most people haven’t been widowed twice.

Unlike Jennifer Saunders, whose recent autobiography contains a disturbing, flat, jolly hockey sticks approach to matters of life and death, Isobel simply describes her responses and they are achingly common – we’re all a bit busy and don’t notice anything, then the horrible panic when the person collapses, the feelings of helplessness, the struggle with medical smoke and mirrors, then the gratitude and surprise when friends rally round. And the minutiae of grief triggers, which I found particularly touching.

But this is the detail of the book, what I love most about her overall philosophy is the sort of: ‘well, gulp, ok, that was huge but you know what, I’ll do something else now!’ And she does. She’s an example of someone who is intuitively programmed to try new things and let go if necessary, this is unusual and for a fifty-plus person really impressive.

She has a finely tuned sense of Jungian synchronicity, her list of ‘what ifs’ isn’t wistful and full of regrets at all, it’s really marvelling at the occasional evidence that the Universe isn’t as random as science would have you believe.

She says she chose religious studies at University to be different, but I think there’s also a deeply spiritual person in there, maybe struggling to get out. Nowhere amid the synchronicities we experience in life is that ever more evident than in the process of the spiritual journey itself – I must remember to ask her if that’s true for her!

What often appears to be a timeline-sensitive diary of highlights but is really under subject heads belies the emotion beneath, meeting Isobel in person, you do not experience any teary-ing up, arm waving or laughing too loud, but it’s all in there. I felt I got to know Everywoman in this book, the feminist, the theatre and arts fan, the childless woman becoming overnight stepmother of six, the courageous person who threw in a nice safe teaching job, moved 100 miles and started an Arts Co-op which looks like succeeding - and that’s a stupendous achievement these days in the World of the Moron we currently enjoy.

The last line of the book made me smile, there’s a list of why she may have left some things out: “It’s none of your bloody business” is the final reason.

Well I never recommend anyone gives away all of their gold, I think Isobel reveals more than most people do even to their best friends, so I am totally happy with that.

Book, (and some pretty nice art and music too) from:

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