Cressida Connolly

Death of the Author

The Violet Hour: Great Writers at the End


Virago 306pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

Morbid from an early age, I have an extensive library of books about death, from the medical to memoirs. Dr Sherwin Nuland’s How We Die is the gold standard if you are curious about what happens to the human body in a number of typical death scenarios such as cancer, old age, a stroke and a heart attack. The undertaker and poet Thomas Lynch writes extremely well about the business of burying, remembering and mourning the dead. Of more recent publications, I didn’t much care for Christopher Hitchens’s characteristically belligerent deathbed essay, but Philip Gould’s When I Die was clear-sighted and brave. Marion Coutts’s The Iceberg, about her husband’s death from a brain tumour, was deeply affecting and beautifully written. Fascinating though these accounts are, this spring I moved the entire death section onto a little-visited shelf on the back staircase. I didn’t think I’d be consulting these volumes again, at least for a while.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'It would be nice to think that women will achieve equal pay in my lifetime, rather than to watch gloomily as stati… ,
    • In 1660, two of the signatories of King Charles I's death warrant fled across the Atlantic to New England. But were… ,
    • Howard Jacobson's sixteenth novel is 'a love story of sorts, one characterised not by physical desire or even conta… ,
    • 'The sudden immersion in the new and unfamiliar can lead people to write with a rare lack of self-consciousness' P… ,
    • 'Pools bend the rules. Clothes slip off, skin glistens, consciousness heightens. A dreamlike scenario unfolds' Jam… ,
    • 'Although he surely didn’t know W H Auden’s theory that every high C proclaims human freedom and our capacity to tr… ,
    • RT : With beginning tomorrow, we've uncovered a 1997 article from the archive reviewing 'Golf Dream… ,