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Book review: Educated by Tara Westover

Tara Westover’s Educated was such a fascinating read. This bestselling book is the memoir of a woman who was brought up a devout Mormon in the US by a mentally ill father (bipolar) and a mother dedicated to her husband, refusing to question her husband’s views.

And these views were often paranoid, dangerous and alarming. They included an extreme suspicion of government involvement in their lives. As a result, the children were home schooled and treated for sometimes terrible unjust at home as the medical institution was not to be trusted.

And then there was Tara’s sometimes friendly and warm brother who often became violent towards Tara, calling her a whore among a range of other insults.

Even when Tara leaves home in search of an education, her family retains a strong hold on her.

It is hard not to see the similarities between this story and Unorthodox, which I have just started watching on Netflix. Both centre in a woman trapped in a stifling and heavily patriarchal religion who attempts to break free.

It was intriguing to read about Tara’s introduction to the wider world, where she embarrassed herself in class when she asked the meaning of the word ‘Holocaust’. The question illuminated just how removed she had been from mainstream society when she was growing up.

Some of the scenes with Tara’s violent brother, Shawn, were harrowing, but equally disturbing was her parents’ unwillingness to intervene. In some ways, it was hard to see why Tara had such trouble breaking away from this dysfunctional family. However, ultimately, they were all she had ever known of the world until then.

Uneducated is an interesting and illuminating read about family, religion loyalty and knowledge – in a way an education in itself.

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