In ‘On Being Ill’, Virginia Woolf found it ‘strange indeed that illness has not taken its place with love and battle and jealousy among the prime themes of literature’. In her memoir, Late Fragments, written as she was dying of cancer, Kate Gross wonders if this is because, as with childbirth, we erase the memory of illness as soon as it is over: ‘And if it is not over; well, what follows is death, and the grave is hardly conducive to the creative spirit.’ Gross died, at the age of thirty-six, on Christmas Day 2014. Before that, she wrote this wise, luminous book.
It came from the unexpected clarity she found as death closed in. ‘It is so, so easy’, she writes, ‘in the rush of life to neglect your inner world. I know mine was dead for many years, squeezed between work and achieving stuff and my darling little ones.’ She did