- Rememberings, by Sinéad O'Connor. Penguin Random House. $45.
I'm certain part of the reason I became a singer was that I couldn't become a priest, given that I have a vagina and a pair of breasts (however insignificant).
The cover may turn many people off, but that would be a pity. Sinéad O'Connor has the ability to either antagonise or frighten people, and there are elements of both in this book. Many refer to her performance on the American Saturday Night Live where she tore up a picture of Pope John Paul II. Add to this, her wearing a clerical collar and claiming to have been ordained a priest and some of her statements about the Catholic church.
All that aside, readers should leave this book occasionally to watch one of her songs on YouTube: Foggy Dew, for example, with The Chieftains or (S)he Moved Through the Fair, in each case the voice unhampered by noisy background music. This hoary cynic challenges you to listen through them with dry eyes.
In August 2015, Sinéad had "an open-surgery radical hysterectomy followed by a total breakdown". The result is that as well as losing her uterus and ovaries, she lost most of her memory, so that there is a break in the story between 1992 and 2015. She had written most of the book before 2015, but the story effectively stops in 1992, post the SNL incident. So we do not read of her ordination to the Catholic priesthood or her subsequent reversion (her word) to Islam.
What she does give us is an account of her "treatment" in America for her mental problems, treatment organised by Dr Phil. She is merely angry about her experiences; the rest of us would be on the barricades after reading about it. Earlier in the book, there is a long chapter in which she describes her capture by Prince, something that she survived by following the advice her father gave her when she was a child about how to get herself out of inner-Dublin danger.
Sinéad O'Connor is the kind of street kid that the whole world, except America, wants to take in and put in the guest room, feed up with porridge and potatoes to try to put some weight on those bones. Except that she is not a street kid, she is a 54-year-old grandmother. On Good Morning Britain, she wore a hijab as she sang Nothing Compares 2 U and was then part of a 20-minute interview in which she was coherent, sharp, bright and smiling.
In her lived life, the lovely Sinéad has thrown out all the "How To" books and been her own woman, and the world has not forgiven her. Her writing style is based on short sentences without polish or pretension. It tells the story of an extraordinary woman, a fighter in a world of men and money. By turns angry and sad, angry and joyful, it is the story of a survivor.