Ten years ago, Helen Naylor discovered that her mother, Elinor, had been faking debilitating illnesses for thirty years. Everything Helen knew about herself and her upbringing was founded on a lie. The mother she thought she had was an illusion. Helen didn’t know the real Elinor at all.
Elinor’s pretence of disability moulded her family and stole Helen’s childhood. Her manipulations forced Helen to sacrifice and compromise, even as a small child, something Helen did willingly because she loved her mother. As her mum’s behaviour became increasingly destructive, Helen was left with a stark choice: to collude with her lies and be absorbed into her narcissistic world, or be accused by Elinor’s friends of abandoning her desperately ill mother.
After Elinor’s self-induced death, Helen found her diaries, which Elinor wrote daily for over 50 years. The diaries reveal not only the inner workings of Elinor’s twisted mind and narcissistic self- delusion, but also shocking revelations about Helen’s childhood. Though Helen no longer feels able to love her mother – it’s difficult to love a chimera – she still misses the mum she thought she had, the one she believed loved her.