A touching story of family secrets, long-lost relatives and childhood in the post-war years

Posted on February 17, 2017

Double Exposure, a memoir by the poet Brian Johnstone published on 23 February 2017, explores the all-too-common yet profoundly affecting experience of discovering previously unknown siblings and relatives.

It is a beautifully written book, rich in nostalgia for the post-war years, but one that doesn’t pull its punches on the crippling social conventions of the time.

Louis de Bernières has hailed it “an affecting tale… the sense of loss is palpable.” Whilst James Robertson has described it as “a memoir not of misery but of love deflected and deferred.”

Two revelations, each coming to light 20 years apart following the deaths of his father and mother, prompt Brian Johnstone to turn a poet’s eye on his 1950s childhood and explore his parents’ lives before and during World War II.

His double set of discoveries lead him to encounter relatives both forgotten and unknown, to free an elderly cousin from the burden of a secret kept for a lifetime, and to forge an enduring relationship with the half-sister he never knew he had.

In a memoir sure to resonate with baby-boomers and anyone who has lost and found unknown relatives, Brian ponders why he was never trusted with the truth and vividly evokes a post-war upbringing, under whose conventional surface so much was hidden.