What Remains

A Memoir by Carole Radziwill

Characteristics of a Memoir

Memoirs have certain characteristics that make them unique from other types of writing. They focus on a specific time in the author’s life rather than the author's entire life. They are nonfiction, yet they read like a story. Also, literary devices like imagery and figurative language are found throughout the text. Finally, Writing a memoir can be therapeutic for the writer; it forces the reader to look back on an important time in his or her life and reflect on the significance of their experiences. The book What Remains by Carole Radziwill is a moving memoir that shows each of these characteristics of a memoir.

Focuses on a specific period of time

In What Remains, the writer focuses mostly on a 5 year time period where she experienced life-changing tragedies. Her husband discovers a cancerous lump on his stomach during their honeymoon and a few weeks later learns that his cancer has spread to other parts of his body. She walks readers through her husband's cancer treatment and how their relationship was affected by his terminal illness during this time.

"What Remains" follows a story structure like all memoirs

Memoirs are full literary devices to bring the writing to life

Writers bring memoirs to life through their use of literary elements like metaphors and similes. When describing cancer and how it affected her life she compares cancer to a teenager tiptoeing in late at night. This simile gives a strong image to the reader and makes his cancer seem to come alive. It helps make the writing more interesting for the reader.

Writer reflect on their feelings and thoughts about the experience

Memoirs reveal the writer’s thoughts and feelings about their experience. An example of this from the text is when Anthony proposes to Carole. During what should be an exciting time for a couple, she shares with the reader her fears of accepting his proposal. She knew he had cancer and felt nervous about marrying a man who was sick with such a serious illness. She didn’t know if people would judge her if she said no. Was it wrong to not want to marry someone because they have cancer? By sharing her reservations with the reader she is letting them into what she felt at that time in her life.