Lisa Appignanesi’s bereavement memoir rambles but is all the more engaging for it, as it explores how loss transforms the self
“Bereavement is a kind of madness,” a widowed friend said to me when my first husband died. “For at least a year,” she went on, “on no account remarry, move house or buy a dog,” or, she might have added, write a book. The bereavement memoir has become a 21st-century genre in which Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking and Joyce Carol Oates’s A Widow’s Story are the classics. Anyone in the habit of writing will find at moments of crisis that, as Lisa Appignanesi puts it in the prelude to her own account of widowhood, “the writer steps in”. Quite where the reader comes in is not so clear. These are not, for the most part, self-help manuals, but in a society that has lost touch with many traditional rituals of death and mourning, people seem to find them useful, either for themselves or for bereaved friends. Having been widowed twice in the last six years, I have become a reluctant connoisseur of the form.
Appignanesi also takes on politics, populism, social media and the contemporary climate of generalised anger