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By turns humorous and heart-rending, an unforgettable account of a young woman's spiritual triumphs over breast cancer in the last year of her life Ruth Picardie was only thirty-three when she died, a month after her twins' second birthday and just under a year after she was first diagnosed with breast cancer. For Ruth, a journalist, it seemed natural to write about her ill By turns humorous and heart-rending, an unforgettable account of a young woman's spiritual triumphs over breast cancer in the last year of her life Ruth Picardie was only thirty-three when she died, a month after her twins' second birthday and just under a year after she was first diagnosed with breast cancer. For Ruth, a journalist, it seemed natural to write about her illness. She published only five columns for Observer Life magazine before she became too sick to continue, but her moving, funny, and very human account drew a huge response from readers all over England. Before I Say Goodbye juxtaposes these columns with correspondence from readers, e-mails to her friends, letters to her children, and reflections by her husband and her sister. The result is a courageous and moving book, entirely devoid of self-pity, that celebrates the triumph of a brave and wonderful woman's spirit. An international bestseller in England, Picardie's sobering yet ultimately life-affirming book is destined to become a classic.


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By turns humorous and heart-rending, an unforgettable account of a young woman's spiritual triumphs over breast cancer in the last year of her life Ruth Picardie was only thirty-three when she died, a month after her twins' second birthday and just under a year after she was first diagnosed with breast cancer. For Ruth, a journalist, it seemed natural to write about her ill By turns humorous and heart-rending, an unforgettable account of a young woman's spiritual triumphs over breast cancer in the last year of her life Ruth Picardie was only thirty-three when she died, a month after her twins' second birthday and just under a year after she was first diagnosed with breast cancer. For Ruth, a journalist, it seemed natural to write about her illness. She published only five columns for Observer Life magazine before she became too sick to continue, but her moving, funny, and very human account drew a huge response from readers all over England. Before I Say Goodbye juxtaposes these columns with correspondence from readers, e-mails to her friends, letters to her children, and reflections by her husband and her sister. The result is a courageous and moving book, entirely devoid of self-pity, that celebrates the triumph of a brave and wonderful woman's spirit. An international bestseller in England, Picardie's sobering yet ultimately life-affirming book is destined to become a classic.

30 review for Before I Say Goodbye: Recollections and Observations from One Woman's Final Year

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mischenko

    This book is featured on Throwback Thursday @ https://readrantrockandroll.com/2017/... I picked this up from a library book sale years ago and read it in just a few hours. It's a book about a woman named Ruth Picardie who was diagnosed with breast cancer in her early 30's just after giving birth to her twins. She was an amazing journalist and her sister influenced her to write about her condition. I was surprised by the format as pretty much the entire book contains personal email correspondence t This book is featured on Throwback Thursday @ https://readrantrockandroll.com/2017/... I picked this up from a library book sale years ago and read it in just a few hours. It's a book about a woman named Ruth Picardie who was diagnosed with breast cancer in her early 30's just after giving birth to her twins. She was an amazing journalist and her sister influenced her to write about her condition. I was surprised by the format as pretty much the entire book contains personal email correspondence to and from friends and colleagues. It's also interlaced with thoughts from family and the five columns Ruth wrote about her condition.  Letter from Jenny Dee, 18 September 1997 Dearest Ruthie, You are my best friend and I am so reluctant to let you go. I've been putting off thinking about you dying because I just don't know how my life will be without you. We have done so many hugely important and amazingly trivial things together - you are the diary that I never kept. The language of love and loss seems so inept at the moment. All I can say is that I will miss you forever, you are my best friend forever and I love you forever. Even though Ruth was a very brave soul, the book still made me bawl my eyes out. By the time I got halfway through the book, I realized that Ruth was somebody I wish I would've known in my life. She was so courageous, positive, and kind. I couldn't imagine being in her shoes and she handled everything which such strength all the way up until the end. This is a book I'll always keep and my rating on it is 5*****.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Gina

    This is a short book that I read in one sitting. It's short, but it does pack a punch. The book was put together by her family and encompasses Ruth's life after a diagnosis of breast cancer at a young age. Much of the book is her e-mails to friends and family members through the last year of her life. Ruth had found a lump, which doctors said was benign, and so she went ahead with IVF and gave birth to twins. Not long after, the lump had grown and was found to be cancer. She was just in her earl This is a short book that I read in one sitting. It's short, but it does pack a punch. The book was put together by her family and encompasses Ruth's life after a diagnosis of breast cancer at a young age. Much of the book is her e-mails to friends and family members through the last year of her life. Ruth had found a lump, which doctors said was benign, and so she went ahead with IVF and gave birth to twins. Not long after, the lump had grown and was found to be cancer. She was just in her early 30's with two young children. Unfortunately, the cancer was agressive and no treatment had any long-term effect. Ruth's emails back and forth to Jamie, a friend with HIV, are especially touching as they both face a grim prognosis. Ruth is an athiest, so this is also considered in how she faces her grim future. The book is not all death and despair, it's also about acceptance and living every day to the fullest, and remembering what is truly important.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Ruth Picardie, an English freelance journalist and newspaper editor, was younger than I am now when she died of breast cancer in September 1997. Princess Diana died that same month, and in this slim collection of columns and correspondence Picardie raves about the first Bridget Jones book and her favorite TV show, ER. It’s strange to think of all she’s missed since then. I wish I could bring her back for a day to get a glimpse of the world now and spend some time with her twins, Joe and Lola – t Ruth Picardie, an English freelance journalist and newspaper editor, was younger than I am now when she died of breast cancer in September 1997. Princess Diana died that same month, and in this slim collection of columns and correspondence Picardie raves about the first Bridget Jones book and her favorite TV show, ER. It’s strange to think of all she’s missed since then. I wish I could bring her back for a day to get a glimpse of the world now and spend some time with her twins, Joe and Lola – they were only two when she died, so now they’re in their twenties. By the time it was clear that death was coming sooner rather than later (the cancer had moved into her liver, lungs, bones and brain), she could only write 6.5 weekly columns for Observer Life magazine, which her older sister, Justine Picardie, edited. Knowing this wasn’t enough to fill a book, Matt Seaton, Ruth’s widower, and Justine gathered a selection of e-mails she exchanged with friends – including writer India Knight and a male friend with HIV – and letters she was sent by Observer readers and put them together with the columns to make a brief chronological record of Ruth’s final illness, ending with a 20-page epilogue by Seaton. Ruth comes across as down-to-earth and self-deprecating, though her terminal diagnosis is never far from her mind. All the rather Bridget Jones-ish fretting over her weight and complexion perhaps reflects that it felt easier to think about daily practicalities than about the people she was leaving behind. This is a poignant book, for sure, but it feels fixed in time, not really reaching into Ruth’s earlier life or assessing her legacy. I’ve moved straight on to Justine’s bereavement memoir, If the Spirit Moves You, and hope it adds more context. Favorite lines: “You ram a non-organic carrot up the arse of the next person who advises you to start drinking homeopathic frogs’ urine.” “Worse than the God botherers, though, are the road accident rubber-neckers, who seem to find terminal illness exciting, the secular Samaritans looking for glory.” (from Seaton’s epilogue) “Like Ruth, I have no religion, but I can more easily understand than ever the appeal of the idea of an afterlife. Not that it doesn’t still seem a magnificent fiction, but without it it is so hard to imagine where all that dynamism, all that spirit, energy and force of personality that was Ruth could have gone. Can it be that it simply leaches away entropically?” [I have felt much the same thing since my brother-in-law’s death.]

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kirsty

    Happily married, and mother to one-year-old twins Joe and Lola, Ruth Picardie was only thirty-two when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. This was soon found to be terminal, and spread to the rest of her body quite quickly. Before I Say Goodbye collects together the columns which she wrote for The Observer after her diagnosis, as well as her email correspondence to selected friends. The book also includes pieces written by her sister, novelist Justine Picardie, and her husband, Matt. I rememb Happily married, and mother to one-year-old twins Joe and Lola, Ruth Picardie was only thirty-two when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. This was soon found to be terminal, and spread to the rest of her body quite quickly. Before I Say Goodbye collects together the columns which she wrote for The Observer after her diagnosis, as well as her email correspondence to selected friends. The book also includes pieces written by her sister, novelist Justine Picardie, and her husband, Matt. I remember, upon first reading this some years ago, that the memoir is darkly funny, and incredibly moving. I felt the same this time around. The letters from readers of her column which have been included are moving in themselves. Before I Say Goodbye is a very loving, and lovely, tribute, to a woman who never lost her courage, or her sense of humour.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    I have honestly never cried so much, I had tears pouring down my face for most of this book. It's made me appreciate how short life is & to make the most of what I have. I can't imagine dying & leaving my babies. The final few pages written by her husband after her death really bring the reality of how undignified it is to die from cancer. E-mails, articles & letters written by & to, Ruth Picardie, a journalist for the Observer, who finds she has terminal breast cancer at aged 32, with twin babie I have honestly never cried so much, I had tears pouring down my face for most of this book. It's made me appreciate how short life is & to make the most of what I have. I can't imagine dying & leaving my babies. The final few pages written by her husband after her death really bring the reality of how undignified it is to die from cancer. E-mails, articles & letters written by & to, Ruth Picardie, a journalist for the Observer, who finds she has terminal breast cancer at aged 32, with twin babies of 1 year old. Don't read in public, I bawled my way through it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Not so long ago, cancer seemed to be a taboo. People didn't talk about it or write about it. And then, like buses, along came not one but two fantastic and talented writers, each telling the public about their cancer experiences. They were John Diamond, writer of 'C: Because Cowards Get Cancer Too' in which he wrote about his experience with cancer in his neck and Ruth Picardie, a journalist who wrote about her terminal breast cancer in the Observer's 'Life' supplement. In a moment of extreme ho Not so long ago, cancer seemed to be a taboo. People didn't talk about it or write about it. And then, like buses, along came not one but two fantastic and talented writers, each telling the public about their cancer experiences. They were John Diamond, writer of 'C: Because Cowards Get Cancer Too' in which he wrote about his experience with cancer in his neck and Ruth Picardie, a journalist who wrote about her terminal breast cancer in the Observer's 'Life' supplement. In a moment of extreme honesty, John Diamond revealed he had a teensy bit of jealousy that someone else was competing with him for the role of cancer columnist and that Ruth might actually be better than him. Their two books are actually very different. Between the two of them, Diamond and Picardie introduced a new approach to dealing with terminal illness. Quite possibly if just one of them had been active at the time the impact would have been much reduced but the sheer coincidence of timing increased the national awareness. Picardie's writing dates to 1997, a time when people still tended to think that cancer was the kind of thing to hush up. People got it, went behind closed doors and were expected to just shut up and get on with the quiet process of disease and death. The date will also trigger some people to recall that Picardie was sick and writing at the time of Princess Diana's death – another event which opened a vein of public emotion that had rarely been seen before. With Diamond and Picardie baring their souls in the press, British behaviour began to change irreversibly. Suddenly writing about deep and personal experience became a new way of dealing with cancer and other terminal illness. These writers changed the national mindset in a way that neither of them could have expected. All they were doing was what seemed right to them at the time. Neither did it with a drive to help others or to achieve some philanthropic goal – in each case they were writers and communicators by training and by trade and writing was what they did – not some type of contrived therapy. The full mail-bags arriving at the offices of their newspapers soon showed the power of their writing. Readers who had cancer, readers who'd lost loved ones to cancer and members of the public who had no personal experience of the disease all picked up their pens and wrote to tell someone that they had never met that their words had moved them. In 1994 at the age of 30, Ruth found a lump in her breast and was told that it was benign. Two years later after having her twin children by IVF, she realised the lump was growing and in October 1996 she learned it was indeed cancerous and that cancer had spread to her lymph glands. The lymph glands were only the start; her cancer spread very quickly, rampaging through her body and killing her in less than a year after her diagnosis. Given the speed of the disease, it's not a surprise that 'Before I say Goodbye' is a short book, running to just 116 pages of which the final twenty were written by her husband Matt Seaton. The brevity seems to contribute to the impact of Ruth's words in a 'less is more' kind of way. There's no prospect that the reader could get bored in such a fast-moving account. The book starts in November 1996, just a month after diagnosis and ends in September 1997. Ruth is still writing up to just a couple of weeks before her death. We can see in the final weeks that the tumour in her brain has impacted on her writing – she's lost the use of capital letters and her sentences are short. Grammar pedants will love and admire that even near the end Ruth could still punctuate and use an apostrophe properly. For a while Ruth tries every alternative therapy going until she realises that their promoters are a bunch of charlatans and con-merchants, preying on the fears and desperate search for results of the terminally ill. She tells us that chocolate and shopping are better therapy than all the caffeine enemas and herbal lotions and potions. Good friends are clearly the best therapy of all. The structure is an interesting one with a mix of input and form. There are emails sent between Ruth and several of her friends interspersed with the five articles she wrote for Observer 'Life'. After the articles start the text interweaves some of the letters Ruth received from readers. Near the end, we get copies of the two hand-written notes Ruth wrote to her children a month before her death (I defy anyone to read these and not get a bit weepy) and eventually we read the 'After Words' of Matt Seaton. I loved the email correspondence with her friends the best. With Jamie who has HIV and is 'in the closet' we learn that his T-cell count is pushing him ever closer to an official diagnosis of AIDS. Ruth discusses the nature of their illnesses, the taboos associated with them and the inevitable thoughts of death. With Carrie who lives in Hong Kong, she reports the gradual evaporation of any hope of recovery as each hospital appointment and scan brings worse news of the spread of her disease. With writer India Knight, she cracks girlie jokes about getting fat, craving chocolate and spending far too much money on expensive face creams and treatments. There are other friends who pop up here and there but these three are the core of the correspondence. Many of the emails are funnier than you might expect given the circumstances though a lot of the humour is very black. She jokes about therapy sessions surrounded by old ladies in wigs, calls a therapist who wants to give her vitamins and oxygen treatment a “money grabbing wanker”, gets crushes on doctors, and begs her friends to write about their problems and gripes because she's bored by going on about cancer. Whilst I loved the emails with friends and was fascinated by the Observer articles, I felt some of the letters from readers were there to pad out this slim volume. It was important to include some to reflect the impact her articles had but perhaps there were a few too many. In many ways – sorry - I hated Matt Seaton's afterword. When I read a book like this I always want to know how it ended, what happened after the letters and emails stopped but in this case, his description of her last few weeks are too hard to read, not just for the descent into mental decline but for the oddly cold and mechanical way in which he delivers his thoughts. Sometimes it's better to end something like this with a moving and emotional post from the soon-to-be-dead person than to be confronted with the cold hard reality of the mental decline that dogged her last days. Seaton's apparent detachment in these final pages is quite possibly a very necessary coping mechanism but at times it seems rather cruel, cold and a great contrast to the open emotion of Ruth's own writing. I was able to read this without any personal sense of connection to Ruth's disease because breast cancer has not really touched my life. I lost a cousin and an aunt 25 years ago but they were not people I really knew well. Most of the people I know who have had this - or whose relatives have been diagnosed - seem to have responded well to treatment. If I had breast cancer or if I had a friend or relative with it, I am pretty sure that this book would have really scared and upset me. To anyone who does have breast cancer or is worrying about someone who does, I would suggest to think carefully about buying this book. I'm sure that the vast majority of breast cancer sufferers do very well. In Ruth's case the apparent misdiagnosis of her lump in 1994 and her subsequent IVF treatment seem to have contributed to the spread of her disease. Nobody reading this should assume that what happened to Ruth is going to be representative of every terminal breast cancer experience. Read this as an inspirational book about the power of humour and positivity and recognise it as a book that changed our attitude to talking openly about disease but please don't assume that every woman with breast cancer will have the same experience.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Laurie Buchanan

    The author of BEFORE I SAY GOODBYE: RECOLLECTIONS AND OBSERVATIONS FROM ONE WOMAN’S FINAL YEAR, Ruth Picardie, was 33 when she passed away in September 1997. Her twins had just celebrated their 2nd birthdays; they would be 21 now. I picked this book up in the bargain book bin at my local bookstore. It seemed to be calling my name. Whenever something like that happens, I pay particular attention because there’s usually a beneficial takeaway in store. And there was. The author’s writing is vulnerab The author of BEFORE I SAY GOODBYE: RECOLLECTIONS AND OBSERVATIONS FROM ONE WOMAN’S FINAL YEAR, Ruth Picardie, was 33 when she passed away in September 1997. Her twins had just celebrated their 2nd birthdays; they would be 21 now. I picked this book up in the bargain book bin at my local bookstore. It seemed to be calling my name. Whenever something like that happens, I pay particular attention because there’s usually a beneficial takeaway in store. And there was. The author’s writing is vulnerable, raw, and angry; cutting to the quick. In other words, it’s honest. On page 110 her husband Matt Seaton wrote, “Ruth’s disarming candor and mordant wit, a crisply vernacular style and an unerring instinct for the emotional truth of a situation, were the qualities her friends loved her for—and they were what her readers valued too." One of the blessings Ruth received in a letter from a reader was included in the book on page 87. Remember the beneficial takeaway I was looking for? This is it: “What I wish for you is the same as for myself—a life, however short or long, that is as happy as possible and a death, however near or far, that is peaceful.”

  8. 4 out of 5

    Missy

    Ruth's story is not one of bemoaning her predicament. It is the story of her life before and after her horrendous diagnosis; life with her husband and her children, the love of her job, the silliness that is shared between her and her friends, and her crass view of cancer...its intrusion into her life. Her lump, when first detected by Ruth herself, was determined by her doctors as being a "fibroadenoma", a non-cancerous lump of the breast. Pacified by the diagnosis, Ruth and her husband Matt wipe Ruth's story is not one of bemoaning her predicament. It is the story of her life before and after her horrendous diagnosis; life with her husband and her children, the love of her job, the silliness that is shared between her and her friends, and her crass view of cancer...its intrusion into her life. Her lump, when first detected by Ruth herself, was determined by her doctors as being a "fibroadenoma", a non-cancerous lump of the breast. Pacified by the diagnosis, Ruth and her husband Matt wiped the worry from their minds. Approximately a year after that diagnosis, the lump began to grow. Ruth returned to her doctor demanding answers. By that time the lump had turned cancerous....a very aggressive type of cancer, which quickly spread to her bones, lungs, liver and brain. Ruth mentions in her book that she had to demand to be given MRI's and CT Scans to detect the cancer's spread. I can't imagine a doctors careless indifference about listening to a patient in pain. It is scary and surreal that this actually happens.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    A very moving account of one woman dealing with her cancer diagnosis and terrible prognosis. The book take the form of e-mails Ruth Picardie sent her best freinds in the year between her diagnosis and death, and the five articles she wrote for a British newspaper. In the little pockets of her life visible through her correspondance with loved ones the magnitude of the loss her friends and family will face upon her death is heart breakingly obvious. It is not the grand gestures one misses when som A very moving account of one woman dealing with her cancer diagnosis and terrible prognosis. The book take the form of e-mails Ruth Picardie sent her best freinds in the year between her diagnosis and death, and the five articles she wrote for a British newspaper. In the little pockets of her life visible through her correspondance with loved ones the magnitude of the loss her friends and family will face upon her death is heart breakingly obvious. It is not the grand gestures one misses when someone dies, but the personal nicknames, the jokes referring to personal history, the little things that indicate real intimacy. Picardie faces her diagnoses and impending death with a wonderful honesty and dry humour thatmak es it even sadder. A quick read and, despite the subject matter, an easy read. I came away so sad that she had died, but very grateful she had shared how she felt about it all.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    "Almost unbearable intensity" says the cover. That's about right. I never quite got over my awkwardness with reading other people's private correspondence but she laid herself so bare in her column that the voyeuristic aspect was eventually diluted. What shines through so much in this book about, essentially, dying, is life and her determination to hang on to it. I wept openly at her letters to her children. The postscript by her husband was amazing too - what courage to be able to admit the real "Almost unbearable intensity" says the cover. That's about right. I never quite got over my awkwardness with reading other people's private correspondence but she laid herself so bare in her column that the voyeuristic aspect was eventually diluted. What shines through so much in this book about, essentially, dying, is life and her determination to hang on to it. I wept openly at her letters to her children. The postscript by her husband was amazing too - what courage to be able to admit the reality of the situation without sugar-coating or sentimentalising it. Overall, a remarkable legacy.

  11. 4 out of 5

    China Flanigan

    This is an amazing book and as an American living in London, at the time of reading, it was a real life argument against Nationalized healthcare. What it is really about, is a young woman coming to grips with her imminent death. This book had a huge impact on me, even now, 13 years after I read it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Judi

    This book made me change my mind about my wish at death for it to happen in my sleep. This book made me rethink this. I now think that part of living is dying and to be aware would enhance living and dying. Anyway, this is not a morbid book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    Absolutely wonderful! So moving. I had just lost my husband to cancer, and could not "right" myself or adjust to my new position in society Ms. Picardie gave me hope, even though she was no longer among us. Absolutely wonderful! So moving. I had just lost my husband to cancer, and could not "right" myself or adjust to my new position in society Ms. Picardie gave me hope, even though she was no longer among us.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    Sad yet funny, this book is in part a collection of columns wriiten by the author. It's also a completion of a life, which is the most tragic thing about the story. Sad yet funny, this book is in part a collection of columns wriiten by the author. It's also a completion of a life, which is the most tragic thing about the story.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jenn

    I had to read this book for class, but I loved it! It's emails and letters that the author sent to friends the year before she died of cancer. I had to read this book for class, but I loved it! It's emails and letters that the author sent to friends the year before she died of cancer.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sabah

    Fascinating & moving idea - a journalist dying of cancer writes letters to her children to be opened over the years, coinciding with important moments she would have shared with them had she lived.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    Not exactly uplifting, but the author writes truthfully about her impending death. We are watching "The Big C," right now, so I thought this would be a good time to pick up this book. Not exactly uplifting, but the author writes truthfully about her impending death. We are watching "The Big C," right now, so I thought this would be a good time to pick up this book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Tracey Sinclair

    I wept like a baby (in public!) when I read this. Heartbreaking.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mary Karpel-Jergic

    A remarkable book which provides a glimpse into the experience of the journalist Ruth Picardie as she gets devoured by breast cancer. This is not a rose tinted account. Instead it is raw, painful, barbaric in places, humorous and candid. An interesting written presentation, not a straightforward memoir. As a journalist for the Observer her sister encouraged her to write about her cancer in her column. Ruth did so, but unfortunately was unable to complete more than five columns. This book includes A remarkable book which provides a glimpse into the experience of the journalist Ruth Picardie as she gets devoured by breast cancer. This is not a rose tinted account. Instead it is raw, painful, barbaric in places, humorous and candid. An interesting written presentation, not a straightforward memoir. As a journalist for the Observer her sister encouraged her to write about her cancer in her column. Ruth did so, but unfortunately was unable to complete more than five columns. This book includes these writings but also includes e-mail correspondences between friends and readers and post scripts from her sister and her husband. All together, the accounts provide a touching account of a young woman, snatched from her life far too early.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Danielle Lowe

    23/10/2017: In my original review I said I didn't cry. I think if I picked this book back up tomorrow I would probably cry my heart out. There have been times where picking this book up has crossed my mind but, after numerous recent family circumstances, the prospect is just too much. I think it might be time to pick it back up through as the bluntness and simplicity of truth might help to provide some sort of closure on events in the recent past. Will update you if/when I do return to it once m 23/10/2017: In my original review I said I didn't cry. I think if I picked this book back up tomorrow I would probably cry my heart out. There have been times where picking this book up has crossed my mind but, after numerous recent family circumstances, the prospect is just too much. I think it might be time to pick it back up through as the bluntness and simplicity of truth might help to provide some sort of closure on events in the recent past. Will update you if/when I do return to it once more. https://cookingupatreat.com/2011/08/0...

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tracey

    I was so moved by Ruth's story. I had read her husbands book The Escape Artist several years ago and it was nice to bring the story together. I admired Ruth and felt her personality coming though the e-mails and columns she wrote and I was sorry I never had the privilege of meeting such a vibrant person. The image of almost 2 year olds going to grief counselling broke me. I was so moved by Ruth's story. I had read her husbands book The Escape Artist several years ago and it was nice to bring the story together. I admired Ruth and felt her personality coming though the e-mails and columns she wrote and I was sorry I never had the privilege of meeting such a vibrant person. The image of almost 2 year olds going to grief counselling broke me.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kalwinder Dhindsa

    A very touching account about the last few months of Ruth Picardie's life. Brought together by articles, emails and letters from readers, friends and family. An emotional read. A book that must be read. Words matter. A very touching account about the last few months of Ruth Picardie's life. Brought together by articles, emails and letters from readers, friends and family. An emotional read. A book that must be read. Words matter.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    Read this "memoir" in one voyeuristic gulp. Combination of email correspondence and newspaper columns written by Picardie as she lived through the last stages of a breast cancer that refused to respond to treatment. At times very sad, at other times quite snarky and funny. Read this "memoir" in one voyeuristic gulp. Combination of email correspondence and newspaper columns written by Picardie as she lived through the last stages of a breast cancer that refused to respond to treatment. At times very sad, at other times quite snarky and funny.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    Yes, I'm a little obsessed with memoirs about dying. This was a good one, read many years ago. Yes, I'm a little obsessed with memoirs about dying. This was a good one, read many years ago.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Heartbreaking non fiction

  26. 4 out of 5

    Charlie Ottaway

    I have never cried so much whilst reading... I was unable to put it down other than to try and calm down for a few moments before reading on. Utterly heart breaking and beautiful.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Gail

    Ruth Picardie was a journalist who was diagnosed with breast cancer in her early thirties, and then all kinds of secondary cancers, in her bones, her lungs, her liver, her brain, and learnt she was going to die. She wrote a column about it in The Observer - although she didn't have time to write many articles, due to the quick progression of the illness - so this book combines her articles with some of her email correspondence with various of her friends, and some of the letters readers wrote in Ruth Picardie was a journalist who was diagnosed with breast cancer in her early thirties, and then all kinds of secondary cancers, in her bones, her lungs, her liver, her brain, and learnt she was going to die. She wrote a column about it in The Observer - although she didn't have time to write many articles, due to the quick progression of the illness - so this book combines her articles with some of her email correspondence with various of her friends, and some of the letters readers wrote in response to her articles, and accounts of her last days by her husband and her sister. I came across this book in a charity shop - by mistake, as I thought I was in the fiction section, and didn't actually particularly want to read biography. But I was intrigued by the idea of this book - cancer and death seem to be such taboo subjects, and so I thought I would like to read an honest, first-hand experience of a real person who had cancer and knew she was going to die. To know what it's like - to better understand people who are going through this, and to see how people cope in this situation. The only other thing I've read on this subject was John Diamond's book Because Cowards Get Cancer Too, which was recommended reading for college, and I found it very eye-opening. What struck me about this book was how very upbeat Ruth is in her writing style - and in a genuine way, rather than annoying platitudes. There is no sentimentality (very middle class British in that!). She's honest and doesn't skirt around the fact that cancer is horrible and is going to kill her, and that she's scared and doesn't want to die, but she is also feisty and no-nonsense, and uses a lot of humour - self-deprecating humour, and also humour that belittles death and cancer. Particularly in her emails to her friends. I think I preferred the email correspondence with her friends to the actual articles, because they revealed more about her personality and attitude and how she was dealing with the situation - she clearly cared about her friends, writing in a fun way to make them laugh, to dissipate awkwardness, to reduce the horror of the fact of cancer and impending death, at the same time as being honest and open. I found myself admiring her, which is not something I feel a lot when reading about people's lives. Her writing style is incredibly adept - she is able to create humour and light heartedness without avoidance or denial. To somehow tackle the enormity of the situation head-on in her writing, leaving you in no doubt as to the pain and impact, but somehow doing it in a way that doesn't wallow or enmesh her readers in her emotions, but is thought-provoking and amusing. The one part of the book that made me cry was the page at the end that has handwritten letters from Ruth to her two-year-old twins, for them to read when they are older. She doesn't talk a great deal about her children in the correspondence with her friends, because that is clearly something that is incredibly painful and personal to her, and makes her cry to think about. She mentions how painful it is to go about making memory boxes for them, and how she has no idea what to write. So then, seeing the actual letters at the end of the book, handwritten and so very simple and concrete and down-to-earth in what they say, is like a complete perspective shift. Like seeing the reality of the situation in its simplest from, unadorned by wit and banter and feistiness. Just the simple fact of two children whose mum has died and has written them letters to say she loves them. I was very impressed with this book. I felt privileged to have this glimpse into this woman's life, and I felt it opened my mind and my understanding of life and death. And it also reminded me how powerful it can be when people write/speak publicly about their difficult experiences - how it helps others (I was moved by the letters that readers wrote to Ruth Picardie in response to her articles - people who had similar experiences and they wanted to share, to encourage her, to let her know she wasn't alone, to let her know that her articles moved them.) People made a huge fuss when Jade Goody went public with her cancer (it's apparently okay when middle class journalists do it with wit and style, but not when the 'chavs' do it!), but I felt it was a positive thing, to help break the taboo of death and dying and cancer, to show people what it's actually like, day to day, to diminish the fear of the unknown. And this is what I feel too about this book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Emily Murfitt

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. As a self-assured emotional wreck I would never normally choose a book like this knowing the subject matter so clearly beforehand. Stated explicitly on the front cover of my edition the words 'the bottom line is, I'm dying' tugged an unwilling heartstring from deep down inside even before I'd reluctantly turned the first page. The bottom line for me was that regardless of any emotional turmoil I'll almost definitely encounter reading picardie's book I am an English student and this book is part As a self-assured emotional wreck I would never normally choose a book like this knowing the subject matter so clearly beforehand. Stated explicitly on the front cover of my edition the words 'the bottom line is, I'm dying' tugged an unwilling heartstring from deep down inside even before I'd reluctantly turned the first page. The bottom line for me was that regardless of any emotional turmoil I'll almost definitely encounter reading picardie's book I am an English student and this book is part of the syllabus. However, I have never been so compelled to write a review, share and discuss a book that I have read before like I am now as type through the tears still flowing from 116 pages of raw emotion. I could warn about spoilers, but as previously mentioned the spoiler is the first thing that catches your attention written in the title, the quote and the black and white picture of a very angelic looking Ruth blazoned across the cover of the publication. This is a book about illness and in particular cancer. But this isn't JUST a book about cancer. This is arguably the greatest book about cancer that I have ever read. Written in an unusual form of email correspondence and articles the book is an autobiographical slice into the life of Ruth picardie: mother, journalist, wife, and inspiration using a compilation of her personal correspondence with friends, other patients and the public through her wonderfully descriptive and charming writing style. The book provides insights into living with a terminal illness and not in the conventional way. From the word go Ruth's account is strikingly raw manifesting a spectrum of intense emotions, hopes and fears one experiences in this devastating battle. I found myself rooting for Ruth praying for every scan to prove a miraculous recovery, laughing at times, and balling my eyes out at others as Ruth reveals the struggles both personal and domestic that the illness creates. In this day and age every single person has been touched by a story of cancer that you sometimes think you know enough about the disease, yet, I implore more people to read this book. Picardie's story connects with every reader that has ever experienced motherhood, loss, or fear of the unknown as she reveals another layer to the heartbreaking truths of the relentless disease. What sets this account aside from the other accounts is the raw, intense emotion throughout. Ruth is incredibly honest about how she feels and shares every single truth with her email correspondents which has now been shared with us, with no minor details spared, through the publication of her battle. Ruth's account makes you question your own mortality and place things into perspective as she heroically strives to fight a war that she will not win retaining an unbelievable sense of hope against every single obstacle thrown in her path. The book is completed with a touching afterword from her husband and what was clearly a very personal publication for Ruth's family, I guarantee will leave a sense of personal inspiration for you.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

    Interesting read. The author has such a great sense of humor amidst all that is going wrong with her life. It's told through emails sent back and forth to her friends. A touching chapter at the end written by her husband with great observations and love for his wife. Interesting read. The author has such a great sense of humor amidst all that is going wrong with her life. It's told through emails sent back and forth to her friends. A touching chapter at the end written by her husband with great observations and love for his wife.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

    This was an amazing book I laughed and cried at the same time. An insight into shared grief

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