'A tender and graceful study of parents and children, and a finely judged and measured attempt to capture the flitting, quicksilver shapes of what we keep and what we lose: the touch, the tone, the gaze of the past as it fades. It is a moving and beautifully achieved memoir, and a testament to the writer’s skill and generosity of spirit.'—Hilary Mantel
Before the devastating ‘loss of her marbles’, Mrs Royle, a nurse by profession, is a marvellously no-nonsense character, an autodidact who reads widely and voraciously—from Trollope to Woolf, Tennyson to Foucault—swears at her fox-hunting neighbours, and instils in the young Nick a love of reading and of wildlife that will form his character and his career.
In this touching, funny and beautifully written portrait of family life, mother-son relationships and bereavement, Nicholas Royle captures the spirit of post-war parenting as well as of his mother whose dementia and death were triggered by the tragedy of losing her other son—Royle’s younger brother—to cancer in his twenties.
At once poetic and philosophical, this extraordinary memoir is also a powerful reflection on climate crisis and ‘mother nature’, on literature and life writing, on human and non-human animals, and on the links between the maternal and memory itself.