n 1997 Andrew Marshall’s partner, and the only person to whom he had ever truly opened his heart died after a grueling and debilitating illness. Unmoored from his old life, and feeling let down by his family, Marshall struggled not only to make sense of his loss but to even imagine what a future without Thom might look like. In his diary, he wrote about what set him back – like a rebound relationship – some weird and wonderful encounters with psychics and gurus and how his job as a journalist gave him the chance to talk about death with a range of famous people, a forensic anthologist, and a holocaust survivor. Slowly but surely with the help of friends, a badly behaved dog and a renewed relationship with his parents, he began to piece his life back together. Although his diary was never meant for publication, Marshall did share it with friends and colleagues dealing with bereavement, who found it immensely helpful, so to mark the twentieth anniversary of Thom’s death, he has decided to open it for everybody to read. My Mourning Year is a frank and unflinching account of one man’s life for a year after the death of his lover. In turn heartbreaking, frustrating and even sweetly funny, this is no step-by-step guide to dealing with bereavement but a shoulder to lean on when facing the unknowns of death and a resource for those left behind.
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Excerpt of My Mourning Year By Andrew Marshall
September 1989: Meeting Thom It is amazing how one small turn can change the whole pattern of your life. I needed a holiday but couldn’t decide where. One day, the guest on my radio show was Joan Le Mesurier – who was promoting her memoirs of life with her husband, Dad’s Army’s Sergeant Arthur Wilson, and her lover, comedian Tony Hancock. I still have the copy signed: ‘To Andrew. Lovely talking to you. August 1989.’ After the interview, we talked about her home in Sitges, Spain, famous for its beaches, film festival, historic buildings and cool courtyards. It sounded the perfect destination, but I expected nothing more than two weeks of sunshine. I was sort of seeing someone. I was happy with my life. It was just a holiday. Sitges was particularly beautiful at the end of the season. The hazy autumn rays made the seventeenth-century seaside church of Sant Bartomeu look even pinker and the pots of geraniums on the balconies even redder. A long white stretch of My Mourning Year – 3 – sand was framed by palm trees, hotels and green distant hills. On the first day of the holiday, I chose a sunlounger, unpacked my towel, book and suncream, and took a sharp lungful of sea air. I pretended to stretch and take in the view but I was more interested in a short handsome man with twinkling eyes, a lazy moustache and a body that demonstrated the benefits of hours in the gym. By his side was a novel: Die Geheimnisse von Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon. My German was good enough to recognise the language and guess at the title. I’d read the book, Mysteries of Pittsburgh, in English the previous summer. We had something in common! I spent the morning trying not to watch him but we would occasionally exchange shy smiles.
Thank you to Andrew Marshall and Anna Burtt at Red Door Publishing for the review copy.