The Music Room: A Memoir (2009) by William Fiennes is a memoir that is a portion of this man’s growing up with an unusual family dynamic and in an unusual environment. It is powerful, but not in the way so many growing up chronicles are; there is no abuse or substance abuse, there is a very normal family in which the eldest brother has severe epilepsy due to a brain injury.
The family lives in an ancestral medieval English estate complete with castle and moat. Although the castle is almost a character itself, it does not dominate the story because it is just home for Fiennes. He has grown up with it and so does not find it unusual. What is unusual is growing up in a family that becomes dominated by the needs and emotions of one person who is mercurial. Richard can be loving and kind, then abusive and mean, then remorseful and sad – all in the space of a few hours.
Fiennes spins the story of his growing up without strict chronological order, weaving his brother’s story with his story, his family, the staff of the castle (it is open to the public for historic tours), and his perception of his home; all of which alternates with a sequence of stories outlining the development of seizures and epilepsy research. Fiennes provides a wonderful portrait of his brother who at times is a tyrant and at times an evocative wonder and at times a total bore.