Mothers’ Day : From Cradle to Stage by Virginia Hanlon Grohl

When Nirvana catapulted drummer Dave Grohl to fame, his Mum, Virginia, was surprised to be the mother of a Rock Star. Then when Dave reinvented himself as frontman of the Foo Fighters, Virginia quit teaching and began to travel the road. She didn’t often meet other mothers at gigs, but always wanted to talk to them about how music shaped their lives.

From Cradle to Stage: Stories from the mothers who rocked and raised rock stars by Virginia Hanlon Grohl. Image supplied by Hachette New Zealand.
From Cradle to Stage by Virginia Hanlon Grohl. Image supplied by Hachette New Zealand.

Eventually Virginia embarked (in her seventies), on a two-year journey to find the “special sorority of mothers of musicians” with whom she could talk about “the trials and joys of raising creative children.” The result is her new book From Cradle to Stage: My son the rock star and the remarkable stories from the mothers who rocked and raised music’s greatest.

Like herself, many of these moms raised their kids solo, holding down several jobs to keep food on the table. While some mothers were okay with their kids quitting school to commit to music, others weren’t – Verna Griffin, Dr Dre’s Mom, worried that her son would be absorbed into the gang scene. (Dr Dre is 51 now!)

Virginia grew up in the Midwest, but Dave and his sister Lisa grew up in Washington, D.C. – a much more sophisticated environment. As a young mother she shared her music with her children (Dave remembers learning to harmonize along with Carly Simon on the car radio) and as he got older, Dave was sharing hard rock and metal with Virgina.

With a foreword from Dave himself, From Cradle to Stage is a tribute to the mothers who encouraged their kids to be creative and follow that star.

Sprinkled with personal ‘vignettes’ from Viriginia, Dave, Nirvana and the Foos, From the Cradle to the Stage chronicles the lives of eighteen musicians – from the army background of Michael Stipe , the early beginnings of The Beastie Boys, to the tragic end to the lives of  Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain.

I really like her style. A former English teacher, Virginia writes a relaxed, entertaining, and at times moving story. It’s not only about people’s lives and roots,  but contains slices of American history as well. It’s so interesting to read of each artists’ first sparks to creativity. For Dr Dre, it was GrandMaster Flash. Yeah.

This book is for everyone. The musicians cover a range of ages and even your Mum/Mom would enjoy it (Virginia even blanks out the F-words).

The mother of the ‘nicest guy in rock’ knows her stuff – using some pretty sophisticated terms (e.g. Minority Rap, Thug Rap in Dr Dre’s chapter – not Gangster Rap) but the last word goes to Dave:

There is no love like a mother’s love. It is life’s greatest song. We are all indebted to the women who gave us life. For without them, there would be no music.

Listen to Kim Hill interviewing Virginia Hanlon Grohl 22 April  RNZ

From Cradle to Stage: My son the rock star and the remarkable stories from the mothers who rocked and raised music’s greatest
by Virginia Hanlon Grohl
Published by Hachette New Zealand
ISBN: 9781473639560

The Little Breton Bistro

CoverI was pretty much chomping at the bit to get my hands on this new novel by Nina George, the author of the international bestselling novel The Little Paris Bookshop. I completely fell in love with her break through novel of love, joy and grief, partly due to its true to life characters which felt as real as people I have known, and partly due to its fabulous theme of ‘the literary apothecary’, a theme that would of course warm the heart of any librarian.

CoverI was not disappointed by George’s second adventure through France The Little Breton Bistro – this time through the story of Marianne Messmann, an endearing sixty year old woman who has endured forty one years in a loveless marriage to Lothar, an inconsiderate and unfaithful sergeant major. When we first meet Marianne, she is on a visit to Paris with her husband. She is determined to finally do something she wants to do, namely, end her life.

Fatefully, Marianne is rescued from her attempt by a homeless man, and, even more fatefully, she is inspired to make a second attempt at suicide in Brittany – due to a painting of its striking seaside which she sees during her convalescence. Marianne’s adventure in Brittany takes her instead on a moving journey to self discovery as her captivating surroundings, and warm, colourful new friends, enable her to rediscover and treasure life again.

This is ultimately a warm and inspiring story despite George’s often stark realization of life’s’ complexities and cruelties. George is a sensitive author with a keen understanding of human frailty and a gift for expressing human emotions. She is also a master of evocative prose and made me feel as though I was present drinking in the sea and observing the Breton people along with Marianne.

Few writers would be able to capture the images and feel of France so well as Nina George. She has made me decide that actually, I have no need to go to these places now that I have read her gorgeous descriptions. Nina George is one of those magical writers who manages to evoke a world for readers to eagerly absorb and ultimately lose themselves in. I loved every moment of my time with Marianne, and, like millions of others, I am eagerly waiting for the next English translation of her novels now that we have finally discovered this beloved German writer for ourselves.

Helen J

The Little Breton Bistro
by Nina George
Published by Hachette New Zealand
ISBN: 9780349142227