Review: And I Don’t Want to Live This Life: A Mother’s Story of Her Daughter’s Murder by Deborah Spungen

HARDCOVER; 380 P.
TRANS. ANNA SALO
GUMMERUS, 1986/1983
SOURCE: FROM THE LIBRARY

For most of us, it was just another horrible headline. But for Deborah Spungen, the mother of Nancy, who was stabbed to death at the Chelsea Hotel, it was both a relief and a tragedy. Here is the incredible story of an infant who never stopped screaming, a toddler who attacked people, a teenager addicted to drugs, violence, and easy sex, a daughter completely out of control–who almost destroyed her parents’ marriage and the happiness of the rest of her family.

Deborah Spungen’s memoir of her daughter’s life is somewhat of a famous book in Finland. It is found in almost every city library and was listed #87 on the Finnish 100 books you should read list. For the kids of today, the story of Sid and Nancy might be unknown since it all happened back in the 1970s. And I must admit, I did experience a little shock when I started reading this book. My history with the story of Sid and Nancy goes back to when I was 13 and read a book where the protagonist was a female punk rocker. Long story short, the girl gets into trouble with her boyfriend (whom she calls Sid) and moves into a small town in the middle of nowhere to discover who she really is. I loved this book, and soon after started my small scale punk rock phase. To me the story of Sid and Nancy was a glorified Romeo and Juliet, but I never looked up the details of how it all ended.

So to pick up this book, which I have been planning to read since I was 13, and to find out that it was actually Sid who murdered Nancy was quite a shock. And the more I read about Nancy’s childhood, the more my naïve image of Nancy started shattering. I read the pain of the family and the frustration towards the system in the 1960s – thank God some things have changed since then. Nancy Spungen was always the outsider, too smart for her age but at the same time too clumsy. Reading this book makes you feel hopeless, because no matter how much you’d hope for things to change, you know the ending will be cruel.

I guess I understand Deborah Spungen’s motive for writing this book; the description of the haunting journalists was angry and filled with hate. At the beginning of the book, I despised Sid for what he had done, but when I read the letters the writer had received from him I started to see where the idea of Sid & Nancy love story was coming from. The book does not glorify drugs nor does it make them the monster. It is very personal and I can’t really judge it based on the story or the characters. However, I cannot say I liked it; it depressed me and I don’t think I’ll be reading anything similar for a while. I also think the title is a bit unfortunate – it sounds like a headline you’d find from the pages of the yellow press.

3.5/5

On a final note I’ll just take a moment to point out the fact that the day I finished reading this book happened to be October 12th, the very same day on which, in 1978, Nancy Spungen was found murdered. And this is all just pure coincidence; I did not know the date had any connection with the book/story. Frightening.

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