The author's first prose book. Saraband, Feb 2017
Two revelations, each coming to light twenty years apart following the deaths of his father and mother, prompt Brian Johnstone to turn a poet’s eye on his 1950s childhood and explore his parents’ lives before and during World War II. His double set of discoveries lead him to encounter relatives both forgotten and unknown, to free an elderly cousin from the burden of a secret kept for a lifetime, and to forge an enduring relationship with the half-sister he never knew he had. In a memoir sure to resonate with baby-boomers, the author ponders why he was never trusted with the truth and vividly evokes a post-war upbringing, under whose conventional surface so much was hidden.
‘An affecting tale that reminds us of the consequences of caring too much about appearances and not enough about the natural affections of the heart. The sense of loss is palpable.’ Louis de Bernières
'Brian Johnstone's story of the unpicking of family secrets and the discovery of siblings he never knew he had is a memoir not of misery but of love deflected and deferred. It is an investigation into the massive shift in social values and expectations that separated the generations born before and after the Second World War. The author does not shrink from depicting the snobbery, vanity and slavish adherence to convention that marked his mother’s life, but recognises that these things were often defences against shame and fear of personal ruin. From his reflections come two simple conclusions - that love is not spontaneous but grows from long-term commitment, and that blood is not thicker than water.' James Robertson
'A profoundly moving elegy written in a minor key. [...] A mature, courageous, honest, and extremely likeable book.' Jim Crumley, The Scots Magazine
'[Johnstone] forge[s] a prose-style, in Double Exposure, that is quite without delinquency or flourish, to the point of stifled breath, which strikes the reader … with its capacity to look into the mouth of the lion, or on occasion to offer what Nabokov called ‘aesthetic bliss’…'
Candia McWilliam, Scottish Review of Books
'Double Exposure captures the slow and lasting damage that family secrets can cause. The revelations themselves are not the point of this book, and instead it is about coming to terms – or not – with the things that are revealed. This is not a linear, easy process, and it is depicted extremely well.' Jennifer Morag Henderson, Northwords Now
'humanity, wisdom and love' David Robinson, The National
'an intriguing, evocative look at a family story' Alison Kirker, Living
Books from Scotland article on the story behind the writing of Double Exposure.