Book Review - This I Know - Susannah Conway

by Janine Fitzpatrick Photo by Susannah Conway

This I Know (notes on unraveling the heart) is a book which explores grief, creativity and growth in a thought-provoking series of essays.

In 2005 Susannah Conway's partner died from a sudden heart attack. Conway gives a moving portrayal of how grief freezes your soul in time and unravels your heart as you work your way through the pain.

As a photographer, writer, blogger and journalist Conway shares how her creative life became a sustaining force in overcoming the loss of the man she loved.

While the book deals with a deeply moving subject it isn't a dark read. Instead the book offers an authentic and ultimately positive look at how difficult experiences can be transcended.

The writing in This I Know has a gentle lyric to it which is complemented perfectly by Conway's beautiful Polaroid photos dotted throughout each chapter. These dreamy watercolour images capturing different snippets of time and emotion give a calming quality to the book.

Conway explores a number of issues in the book. Birth, body image, strength in stillness, finding comfort in your very own "tribe of one", obtaining a sense of belonging and living a creative life are just a few of the topics Conway tackles.

"if you were to take away the paintbrushes and the cameras, the loom, the guitar and the stage, you'd be left with a bunch of people who are compelled to act on their creative impulses. You are left with artists. I believe we are all artists at our core."

Conway shares how each creative medium adds a different element to her life.

"When you're floundering in grief, photography can get you out of the house, while writing is a key for a different door."

Each chapter concludes with a reflection activity for the reader to complete. There are an assortment of tasks including Conway urging you to write not just the standard "letter to your younger self" but a letter to the present you from the woman you will be in twenty, forty, fifty years . Or having you create pretty "treat cards" for yourself, highlighting the things you love. On a regular basis you slip out a card and activate the treat on it be it taking a bubble bath or eating in a nice restaurant, whatever will bring a little joy into your world.

This I Know is a beautiful book, part memoir, part gentle self-help. It acts as a guidebook to uncovering creativity in your everyday life and moving through the challenges of your existence.

Janine Fitzpatrick blogs at  Shambolic Living where readers get to feel far happier about their lives when they experience the chaos of hers. She is coming to terms with being the mother of two teenagers, has given up on the dream of a tidy house and still plans to write a book one day.