Notes to Self

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 12 Aug 2019

Member Reviews

Emilie Pine’s memoir debut brings to light the topics that may be difficult or awkward to discuss like infertility, caring for an alcoholic parent and taboos of the female body and pain. Emilie’s writing is raw and reflective. These bits and pieces of her life are ones that left a mark on her and can be difficult to read. There is no sense of self-pity; Emilie just states it as it is: messy, lonely, and chaotic. Emilie Pine lets herself bleed on the page, exposing her vulnerability. This is a book that should be titled NOTES FOR EVERYONE. It’s raw, carving through messy material that is unavoidable and difficult to endure. ⁣
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“I wrote these essays to reclaim those parts of me that for so long I so thoroughly denied. I wrote them because it was the most powerful thing, I could think of to do.”
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If this book had a motto, it would be "To thine own self be true." The abject honesty on display in these six essays elicits both sympathy and irritation, but (perhaps) also admiration of her willingness to reveal the less appealing aspects of her character. The standout essay for me is the one detailing her father's alcoholic decline and her role as caregiver, after a lifetime of dealing with their difficult relationship. Are her thoughts and actions justified in light of years of family history? I was pondering this for days after I read it. Other essays about menstruation and menopause, subjects that often are considered "taboo" for public discussion, were as messy as one might expect but not quite as awkward.
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Emilie Pine writes beautiful, soul-baring essays that consider no family secret or personal topic too, well, secret or personal for exploration. The result is a lovely and moving collection of thoughts, ponderings, revelations, and reflections on what it means to live in a family, a body, and a world that are all ever-changing. I really enjoyed her voice, it has a crystalline clarity like a glass shattered by opera singers - rough edges and brittle bits and brilliant pieces everywhere...
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Smart, engaging, and destined to end up on Best Essays of 2019 lists at the end of the year. Highly recommend.
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*The following review was posted on my Bookstagram blog “b.isforbooks” on 6/8/19. Link to the post is included below.

Notes to Self is a collection of six very personal essays about the author’s life experiences. These essays cover a number of topics that are often considered taboo for women to talk about openly including addiction and mental health; periods, miscarriage, and menopause; sex, marriage, and divorce.

The book started out strong for me with a piece about Pine’s relationship with her father, an alcoholic on the verge of death. Pine travels to Greece after her father has a medical emergency and she finds him in a hospital with an astonishing lack of appropriate medical care. To me, this was the best essay in the book. I was also drawn in by an essay about her teenage years, which were filled with alcohol, drugs, sex, and parties in search of something to fill the emptiness inside.

This was a quick, easy read. And while the writing wasn’t bad, it was not as gripping as I expected considering the intimate subject matter. This may, in part, be due to the fact that I read the book in bits and pieces. Perhaps I would have enjoyed it more if I could have read the whole thing in one sitting. Perhaps I have also been distracted by the personal things going on in my own life. However, at times the voice came across to me as forced and a bit unfocused in sharing its message. I do commend Pine, though, for being bold enough to put her most intimate experiences out there for the world to read.

I would love to hear from anyone else who may have read this one, particularly if you enjoyed the book. Thanks to NetGalley and The Dial Press for the advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions here are my own. Notes to Self will be available in the U.S. on June 11th.
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In Notes to Self, Emilie Pine delivers an unforgettably honest portrait of one woman's life. Her essay about caring for an alcoholic father--the raw, grim physicality of it, the difficulty of performing the intimate tasks of medical care for a man who so poorly performed the role of father--is particularly wrenching. She also writes insightfully about what it means to be a woman, navigating a world that places such impossible demands on the female body. These essays invaded my waking life, echoing across the day, pulling me back each evening to read more.
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Notes to Self is a spot on title for this collection of personal essays. The author boldly dives into her vulnerability, covering topics from addiction to infertility to  rape. Pine’s self reflection is personal and also universal, many excerpts speak directly to my experience as a woman facing middle age and reflecting on the journey here. In one essay she says “you can be silent and loud at the same time”, this collection allows her to finally be heard.

I was given an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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A very important book, especially in the political climate we are in right now. Highly recommend to all women.
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Notes to Self is a collection of essays written about past experiences in Emilie Pine's life including having an alcoholic father, divorce, trauma, loss and more. It is brave of Emilie to share her experiences in such an honest and vulnerable way. At times it was a difficult read for two reasons. First, I can relate to some of the experiences having gone through similar ones and/or seeing them happen to family members and friends. The second reason is that at times the essays seem to fall flat for me- though I do think Emilie is a great writer. Perhaps it would have been better as a memoir. Thanks to Random House Publishing Group and Netgalley for an ARC copy.
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I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.  
Thanks NetGalley!

This book is set up as a short collection of essays.   the essays are completely personal and difficult to read at times because of the content.        Worth the read.
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This is deeply personal collection of essays that come together and form a type of memoir. It was moving, but difficult to read at times due to the content. However, I think it is a book that needs to be read. 

I would like to thank netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy free of charge. This is my honest and unbiased opinion of it.
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In Notes to Self, Emilie Pine is brutally honest. With herself. She spills it all in a festival of catharsis, self-criticism and unvarnished clarity. It is an annotated stream of consciousness of her life. 

The book is a very short collection of essays: of her relationship to her alcoholic father, her inability to conceive, and her wild-child adolescence. Her criticism of the injustice, the unfairness and the fickleness of life goes on way too long. The stories are very intense. At numerous points, readers might want to scream “Get a grip!”

Like a Jules Feiffer cartoon, Pine goes through all the angles of doubt, both self and about everyone and everything else. She rationalizes, worries and wallows. She is defensive about her lack of empathy, just recently discovered. It is all about her, and always has been.

Pine is well accustomed to being published. She is an academic, caught up in the world of publish or perish. But this is different for her. She had long made detailed notes, but just stuffed them in a drawer. Her partner encouraged her to expand on them, and a publisher gave her a book deal if she would write them up completely. It has been a great success in her native Ireland and the UK.

And yet, reading it, it is so intensely personal, it is almost embarrassing. For her, her father, her sister, her mother…. It takes a very strong personality to pull this off as well as Pine has. She is forceful, and ultimately, it has served her well.

The stories are of pain. The book begins with the pain of the child becoming the parent to the alcoholic, abusive father. The second is the pain of miscarriage and the inability to conceive. The third is the pain of divorce in Ireland, and how Pine’s parents, totally estranged, never did. There are the twin pains of menstruation and menopause. Every little thing in life is pain.

The chapter on her teen years is the most revealing, appalling, and difficult, both for Pine and the reader. As a child of estranged parents, she exerted her independence and defiance, becoming lonely, lost and bitter. And in her words, worthless. She gave up her virginity at 13, spent her nights at bars and clubs by 15, did all but the hardest drugs, ate extremely badly when she ate at all, and left school and ran away from home, only to sleep in the streets. She played the slut for drinks, drugs, and free access. She was raped twice and rationalized it away, only remembering them as such 20 years later. Her self-loathing is still evident as a 40 year old, as she refuses to have a full length mirror in the house. Today, she has pressured herself into overwork to the point where she no longer even likes the things she loves to do. Her life is pain-based.
That she made it into a university and is now a tenured professor and academic author is little shy of a miracle. Her life is one big issue, and this book is her dealing with it. It is a fascinating and horrifying confession of misperceptions, selfishness and lack of guidance or discipline.

Reading Notes to Self is voyeurism of a higher order.

David Wineberg
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Emilie Pine’s Notes to Self is composed of six deeply personal essays that read like a disjointed but clear-eyed memoir. Pine doesn’t hold back as she describes difficult events in her life, including: her father’s alcoholism and near-death liver failure, her struggles with infertility/miscarriage, her parent’s separation but not-legally-recognized divorce in Ireland, her childhood eating disorder and reckless teen partying years. While the essays focus on heavy topics, they are easy to read and non-pretentious, especially given that Pine is a professor. As an American, I was genuinely surprised by how certain pieces Irish legislation pertaining to divorce and fetal life/abortion intersected with and limited circumstances in Pine’s personal life. This collection is worth a read, but a couple of the essays felt noticeably weaker than the others, resulting in an uneven book.

(Note: Many thanks to Netgalley and The Dial Press for the advanced readers copy)
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I loved these heartbreaking, brutally honest essays about wild girlhood, caring for an addict, and recovering from a miscarriage. This is a significant and emotionally hard-hitting collection, and I am so grateful to have read it.
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These essays are pure, raw, emotional, and real. Emilie Pine really dove into these specific trigger sensitive topics with her stories and was very upfront about it. I personally really like the way that her essays are structured. Her emotions were well articulated throughout her words. It is definitely a hard read and I personally recommend taking breaks in between reading it. The amount of description, violence, sadness, and honesty in the book really throws people off, and you'd take a while to process the details. 
Pine's book is on par with Roxane Gay's Not That Bad, and other feminist stories that talk about the traumatic experiences.
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Notes to Self is one of those books that you can read for hours while losing track of time and being completely fine with the fact that you stayed up until two A.M. even though you have to get up in about six hours. This debut novel by Emilie Pine is raw, honest, and freaking brilliant. I will tell you something- I have never been into essay collections, but after reading this book, I’m considering adding an “essay” category to the genres of manuscripts we accept for publication. THAT is how good this book is.

The book features five essays about Pine’s life events, and the essay’s titles are as follows:

-From the Baby Years

-Speaking/Not Speaking

-Notes on Bleeding & Other Crimes

-Something About Me

-This is Not an Exam

I received this book before it was published to write an honest review, and I am so happy that I got the privilege to do so. Pine does not sugar-coat anything horrible that happens in her life, and she has a given talent for expressing her emotions in ways that others are able to relate to. In the course of a few months, Pine lost her husband and father to cancer, afterwards having a miscarriage for a pregnancy that took her several years of planning. There is no way that I can imagine having to face the tragedies that this woman did, and it made me step back and take a look at the life that I have. Sometimes it seems I take for granted all of the things that I do possess in life, and after reading this book, it showed me how to see the good in just about everything. Although Pine went through these tragedies, she still keeps her blazing personality and humor, which is just astounding and downright beautiful.

In these essays, Pine talks about the difficulties that arise when trying to conceive, she talks about the horror of addiction, the natural conflict that comes with having a family, sexual violence, and many more topics.

Notes to Self is sad, happy, devastating, funny- an amalgam of emotions that I did not want to put down.

Read this book if you are a writer. Read this book if you are a reader. Read this book if you are a mother. Read this book if you are a lover. Read this book if you are a woman. Just read this book.
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This is the type of book I LOVE - We are Never Meeting in Real Life, Shrill, You'll Grow Out of It - I am so here for women writing about things we don't often hear discussed. I even shed a tear reading the author's note.

But then the essays...just fell flat for me. We've had some similar experiences, so it should have been easy for me to relate. It wasn't. I wouldn't have finished this book if I weren't hoping for something positive to be able to include in my review. 

Ultimately, the positive is the subject matter: alcoholism, infertility and miscarriage, divorce, menstruation, trauma, burnout. It's the execution that just didn't work for me.

I think the issue isn't quite Pine's writing style, but that I've heard these themes before. For the essays to resonate with me, I needed them to offer another perspective, or talk about these issues in really beautiful and/or powerful prose, or take them further than other things I've read. I didn't feel like they did.

The structure of the essays left me feeling like she continually gave each topic short shrift, and made it harder for me to sink into them. For example, in the essay about menstruation, Pine jumped around from her first period, to being squeamish talking about blood, to blood being dirty, to periods being painful, to period blood being taboo during sex... all in the span of a few pages. Rather than feel like she covers the gamut, it feels like most of the topics in this collection are given short shrift, and aren't truly investigated or explored. 

I was actually angered by one of Pine's suggestions, and a sarcastic comment she made. Both of them struck me as anti-feminist, and the one perhaps transphobic. If she had been digging deep, and not just bouncing around a topic, I don't think she'd have made such irritating comments. But she did, and neither sat well with me.

I respect Pine for confronting painful events in her past and putting them on the page, and I'd try her writing again. But I wouldn't really recommend this particular essay collection.

(Thank you to Random House and NetGalley for an e-arc in exchange for honest review)
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I really enjoyed Emilie Pine's honesty and transparency in Notes to Self.  The book felt like reading Pine's journal or listening to her thoughts.  She wrote the book in a serious of long essays about her life experiences, including her father's alcohol addiction, her infertility and miscarriages, her rebellious adolescence, and coming to terms with realizing she had been raped.  Trigger warning: these topics can trigger emotions for many people.  I am one of those people, but it helped me think through some of my own experiences and relate to her.  There is something to be said about a person who is brave enough to be honest, then publish it to the entire world.  Writing can be very cathartic and that came through in Emilie Pine's essays.  

I felt an emotional connection to many of her life experiences.  Many women can relate to Pine's experience with miscarriages and infertility, and many people have experience with addicts in their lives.  I felt like every personal story Pine told, I could relate to in some way.  

This book was also the perfect length and easy to devour in a few hours.  I gave it 4/5 stars.
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Unvarnished ~ Universal ~ Unflinching

tl;dr: Essays ranging in topics from infertility to addiction

Pine's essays share unflinching looks at the hardest times in her life, from her father's addiction to her sister's still birth. These essays feel like chapters in a memoir that leaves nothing out. Pine writes about her challenges without romanticizing her problems. Pine is a woman who is willing "to bleed" as she says on the page for her writing. Pine was new to me, though she is a well-known Irish writer. These honest essays were one heck of an introduction to her voice. I found this book like a better written version of Solnit's Men Explain Things to Me essay. Definitely worth reading. 
TW: Addiction, still birth, infertility

Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Emilie Pine has written a raw honest open revealing book.She shares all spares herself nothing a very compelling read. # netgalley #randomhouse
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