I read an article this week that made me feel sad and inspired, in equal measure. It was an interview with the daughter of the wonderful, and much missed, Helen Dunmore.
I have loved Helen’s writing since I first discovered her novels, maybe 15 years ago or more. The first title of hers that I read was, A Spell of Winter, (published 1996) and since then I have gone on to read several more, including, The Siege; House of Orphans; The Greatcoat and The Lie.
Right now I am in the middle of reading Exposure, published in 2016, just a year before she died.
I haven’t read any of her poetry, but it is her eighth collection of poetry, Inside the Wave, for which she was awarded a posthumous prize of the Costa Book of the Year. Her daughter, Tess, and her son, Patrick, received the award on their mother’s behalf.
“Poetry was in Mum’s soul,” Patrick Charnley told the audience, thanking her poetry editor, Neil Astley, in particular. “This collection contains some of the most beautiful writing she completed in her life and it came at the time of her death. It is so personal and so wonderful, we hope it will touch a lot people who face this thing that we all do.”
(excerpt from The Guardian, 30 January 2018)
Two weeks before she died, Helen wrote a poem for her children. She was creating even then.
Her daughter, Tess, explained how Helen had been so incredibly brave during her last months and weeks. She said that her mother approached death with ‘such grace’ that it took much of the fear away. Quite a gift to give someone when you know your time is up.
Her daughter explains:
“I think although her world got smaller, she couldn’t go out so far afield, she continued to just see the beauty in everything – which I find very inspiring.
“She just made the most of every single day until she died.”
(excerpt from BBC News, 31 January 2108)
Tess is right. Helen Dunmore has been an inspiration, not only to her family and friends, but to the millions of readers who have marvelled at her writing. Let’s hope she knows what a difference she has made and how her legacy will continue.