by Clover Stroud, paperback, £10.99,
(reviewed by Clare)
All of us who love Gifford’s Circus remember the shock of hearing of the death of circus founder Nell Gifford in 2019 aged 46. This visceral memoir is the work of Nell’s sister, journalist, and author Clover Stroud, mapping her heart on the page in the aftermath of Nell’s death. A love letter to a precious sister, it’s also a rallying cry against the stigma and hushed tones that surround death in our sterilised modern lives. Clover is a writer who translates into words how life feels. This book is her account of struggling to understand where her sister has gone following her death. It plays out against the daily domestic backdrop of home and family that is Clover’s signature style. The metaphysical mixed in with dinner needing to be cooked and washing-up in the sink. Inspired by the quests of long-ago knights, she begins working out how to live in a world at once familiar yet utterly transformed by not having Nell in it. This is no misery memoir despite the sadness it documents. On the contrary, it fizzes with life. While I would recommend it to anyone who is grieving, its exploration of the mystery of death and the tenacity of the human spirit is universal. Ultimately this book about death is all about living.