This month’s starting point is the Arsonist by Chloe Hooper and is a book I have not read, though based on true events.
That leads me to my first book, also based upon true events. Their Darkest Day by Matthew Cox & Tom Foster. The tragic events of Pan Am 103. The flight left Heathrow airport on it’s way to the US when it exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie on 21 Dec 1988.
There is a number of memorials in Lockerbie and the neighbouring hamlet of Tundergarth, where part of the plane came down. There is a main memorial at the cemetery at the edge of Lockerbie complete with a former groundsman lodge which has been converted to a historical room commemorating the events. There is also a memorial room at the church at Tundergarth. In both places there are memorials on tree’s and seats. There is also a memorial in Lockerbie itself, where there were a row of houses that were demolished when the plane came down and a number of locals perished.
I have over the years visited the sites many times, not because anyone I know died in the tragic event, but because my husband grew up in Lockerbie and lost several friends that fateful night. It was while I was visiting the memorial in the cemetery at Lockerbie that I spotted the next book.
In this book, The Boy who Fell out of the Sky by Ken Dornstein, the author writes a beautiful tribute and memorial to his brother David, who died as a result of the event. David was an author and left behind a plethora of writings and notes. Ken sought to understand the death of his brother and therefore this is the outcome of an emotional journey.
Keeping on with the theme of folk writing about their families or family members is this book, Flesh and Blood: A History of my Family in Seven Sicknesses by Stephen McGann. Although a British author and a member of the McGann family who are very much an acting family, members across the globe will likely recognise the author as Dr Turner from Call the Midwife. This is an interesting book and one that was on my radar for a while. It is a novel approach of looking at the illnesses that affect a family. Such a good idea, I wish I had thought of it!
Next up is The Smallest Things by Nick Duerden. I recently reviewed this for Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine (April 2019 issue) and it was a pleasure to do so on a number of levels. The book is a reflection of what many of us do and that is to look back on the small idiosyncrasies of our own families, mindful that with death comes the loss not only of a person but also the trivial snippets of their life – did they take sugar in their tea? how did they cook that wonderful cake? All those things that are lost through the inevitable unless it is written down.
This for me was not just another genealogist writing about their folk. It is the stories of a journalist whose family was Italian. Who was left feeling lost that his Grandmother had entered a care facility which she hated. They were separate by land, language a generation, but they were too linked by blood and the love that you share with a family member. Since I reviewed the book I have read it twice more. It is a beautiful book and I don’t know if that is what the author intended or if he simply sat and poured his heart and soul into the pages as his fingers whipped across a keyboard but he has written a beautiful book as a way of capturing the past and family he once had.
Following on and in some cases with similarities to the earlier books is this book, The Life of Stuff by Susannah Walker. I found a deep sense of understanding with this book. Written by the author about her mother and what she left behind. The feelings of loss and guilt as the weeks following a death are navigated and the decisions that are necessary to be made.
The author’s mother was a hoarder and therefore there was much to attend to and there was the guilt of “allowing” that to happen. The book resinated with me, not because my mother was a particular hoarder but just the guilt, the lack of knowledge, information hidden and so forth.
Lastly, my selection this month is, The Art of Swedish Death Cleaning by Margareta Magnusson. In this book the author takes on board an almost impersonal approach to the art of ridding yourself of your belongings before the inevitable occurs.
I have to admit, this is the second such book that I have, both acquired after I almost died as a result of day surgery and the realisation that someone at some point will have to deal with my “stuff” once I am gone. I have no plans to leave just yet, but none of us know what is around the corner and as I leave no children, the task will fall to some unlucky others.
Well, that is it for another month. I look forward to taking part in April although I will strive to get the post up before the middle of the month!