In From There to Here: War, Peace, Pandemic — A Memoir, Romy Wyllie offers a thoughtful and fascinating account of her life, drawing captivating parallels between both historical and current events.
The book opens with Wyllie as a child, growing up in England during World War II. She discusses the difficulties, dangers, and tragedies of being a young woman during wartime and how the war threw her life into chaos. The book follows Wyllie into college and through her travels to Scotland, America, and around the world, giving readers more insight into her life experiences. Throughout her memoir, Wyllie draws parallels between her life then and life now during the COVID-19 pandemic, which inspired the idea behind the book. Finally, it ends with Wyllie in adulthood, just before the birth of her first child. At its core, Wyllie’s story is about how we cope with disaster and moments in history when the future feels uncertain. This theme is driven primarily by the way Wyllie draws parallels between living through COVID-19 and World War II, which she does without falling prey to the pitfalls of pandemic-inspired media. The sheer volume of it can be exhausting, leaving consumers of any kind of media wondering whether it’s possible to tell truly original stories about the experience. In From There to Here, Wyllie proves that it is. The pandemic accounts for only a small portion of Wyllie’s compelling story, and so the book as a whole, benefits from its organization and the way it frames the pandemic as a catalyst for the author’s reflection rather than the focus of it. Perhaps, the book’s standout feature is its reverence for and employment of historical context. Wyllie is a master at establishing the relevant historical backdrop of one era or another as she tells her own story and moves through the times. Straddling the line between memoir and historical non-fiction, Wyllie seems to face no trouble in her fluid, engaging use of language throughout the book. In other words, From There to Here is neither too partial or subjective for a historical piece, nor too impersonal or dense for creative non-fiction. It’s perfectly balanced, and its symmetry is expertly conveyed in the way that Wyllie weaves in and out of personal and historical subject matter. The book is, of course, more memoir than it is anything else, and so the compelling personal nature of its contents serves to entice readers to dive deeper into the historical context that has shaped Wyllie and influenced the events of her life — all of which she describes in mesmerizing detail. Wyllie’s genre-bending memoir has something for many different kinds of readers. Whether it’s world history, personal history, or history in the making that you’re after, From There to Here gives readers an opportunity to connect with humanity in a way that is both poignant and timeless.