The Three Burials of Lotty Kneen by Krissy Kneen

‘Where does this story begin?’

Krissy Kneen’s grandmother Lotty (born Dragitsa) did not share much information about her early life and family history. Krissy always wanted to know more about her family but did not feel able to explore her history while her grandmother was still alive. Family histories are often complicated, especially if someone wants to forget or hide or escape from the past. Her grandmother did not want her to travel to Slovenia to explore the past. Who was Lotty Kneen, and what shaped her life? And why was this quest so important to Krissy?

‘Names hold power. My own name is not my birth name, just as my grandmother’s name is not the one she was given.’

With a box containing her grandmother’s ashes, Krissy Kneen set out to trace her grandmother’s early life in Slovenia and Egypt. Perhaps she would find other family members as well. What follows is a complicated, partial unravelling of Lotty’s life. Three countries, three lives, three burials. Lotty belongs in Slovenia, in Egypt, in Australia. And, as Krissy Kneen undertook her journey, she learns more about her grandmother and her own history.

This book is a journey of both discovery and memory. Krissy Kneen learns about her grandmother’s unknown past and remembers the woman she knew. The family dynamics are complex, the family history is full of mystery. Some facts emerge, but the reason behind some actions remains elusive.

‘Memory is all about overlapping versions of the truth. It is an unwinding.’

Reading this book, I gain an impression of Lotty Kneen of a strong, determined woman, keen to protect her family. Krissy Kneen has honoured her, by travelling back into the past and by consigning a portion of her ashes in countries where she lived and where her life was shaped. And now I want to read ‘Affection’ (Ms Kneen’s memoir published in 2010) to learn more about her family.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Text Publishing for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith