Book Review: My Second Life by Simon Yeats

It’s been a while since I have read an autobiography, so I was intrigued when My Second Life by Simon Yeats crossed my desk.

1. Thoughts on the events

This book follows the author (duh, it’s an autobiography) as he goes through the events of his first life and into his second. He details meaningful events from childhood through adulthood, such as being boxed by a red kangaroo, climbing (and descending) a mountain, a car accident. Most of the book, though, deals with his relationship with his ex-wife. She was from Brazil and while the relationship was at first good, she spent more and more time in Brazil, demanding more and more money. Eventually, she took their son with her and never came back. This lead to years of legal drama, trying to see his son, and an uncertain future. 

I found the events detailed here very interesting. They were mostly on the negative side, with the author focusing on traumatic events (such as the kangaroo) and being bullied. He holds up his father as a paragon of fatherhood, but the father rarely plays a part in this story. I will admit, it took me about a third of the book to actually get invested in the story, but eventually everything started to move and became more intriguing. Where the book ended, though, was very abrupt and left the reader hanging in quite a dramatic fashion. (Yes, I know this is often the case with autobiographies, given that the author is still alive and can’t write their own future.)

2. Thoughts on the figures 

I think the author did a good job detailing people and events that had an impact on him without going into detail that was overwhelming. I would, however, have liked to know a bit more about certain figures in his life, such as his father and siblings. They were all mentioned as being significant, but the amount of time spent on them was minuscule compared to the rest of the book. If they had such a profound influence, I would have liked to know more.

3. Favourite part

The way this book was written was, at first, very choppy. There are many, many fragments of sentences that should have used commas instead of periods. Being a linguist, editor, and author myself, this was at first off putting. However, the more I got into the book, the more this style actually appealed. It worked very well to inform the author’s voice and direct the story. It’s an unusual means of providing emphasis, to be certain, but in this instance it worked very well.

4. Critique

The focus of this book is on the transition from first life to second life. This is mentioned throughout the story in various different places. However, only once, and in one sentence, is the concept of what a second life is explained. It’s very near the end of the book (the penultimate if not the final chapter) and before that, all that is present is references to being in the first life or when the author gets to his second life. Frankly, the concept of first life versus second life plays such a minimal role in the book that it’s very nearly irrelevant. The main premise of the book is a father’s devotion to his son, despite difficult circumstances. The framing of the book around the first/second life concept is philosophically interesting, but as the concept is not really expanded upon in any great detail, it feels very artificial.

Overall, I would say that the autobiography is a good one. It did take a while to capture my interest, and there were difficulties I had with the pacing and structure of the story (especially at the end), but it was worth a read. A good book.