Review of The Longest Farewell – James, Dementia and Me by Nula Suchet – Rated 5 stars @nulasuchet @johnsuchet1 @SerenBooks @LoveBooksTours @David_Suchet #TheLongestFarewell #BlogTour #Review #dementia #nonfiction #review #health

The Longest Farewell
By Nula Suchet
Rated: 5 stars *****

Nula Suchet Blog Tour poster.jpg

It gives me great pleasure to be closing Nula Suchet’s blog tour with my review, that was arranged by Kelley at Love Books Group. I first came across Nula Suchet’s book in the summer of 2019 and I am so pleased a blog tour has now occurred. This is one of the most heart-breaking non-fiction books, but it is also one of the most important. It also has the most wonderful happy moments within it. This book is worth investing the time in reading it. I highly recommend this absorbing, all-encompassing book that you may feel every emotion from.

 

About the Author

Nula Suchet picNula Suchet was born in Ireland, part of a large family. After a difficult early life she became an interior designer who worked internationally in the UK, Europe and the US. Now retired, she lives in London with her husband, the broadcaster John Suchet, who she met in the care home where their spouses were being cared for with dementia. Her book, The Longest Farewell, on dealing with her husband’s dementia and the heartbreak that came with it is available now.

Blurb

When Nula’s husband James, a British documentary filmmaker, becomes forgetful they put it down to the stress of his work. But his behavior becomes more erratic and inexplicable, and he is eventually diagnosed as suffering from Picks Disease, an early onset and aggressive form of dementia. Suddenly their lives change from comfortable middle-class creatives through inexplicable behaviour, the shock of diagnosis, coping with the ongoing illness, not coping with the illness, to the indignities of care home life. The Longest Farewell is a moving description of James utter mental and physical deterioration, and the effect that it had both on him and on the people from whom he was involuntarily retreating, particularly Nula. Her life is completely taken over by James illness: her frustration at trying to cope, her guilt at having to hand over his care to professionals in England, are just part of her at times harrowing story.

With James in care and left with seemingly little to do but wait for his death, Nula meets Bonnie, another resident at the care home suffering from the same condition. In turn she meets Bonnie’s husband, the broadcaster John Suchet and the similarity of their positions becomes a bond between them. After the deaths of James and Bonnie, and some guilt-induced false starts, Nula’s story takes a bitter-sweet turn: they become partners, and eventually marry. The Longest Farewell is a heartfelt yet inspiring account of dealing with dementia, and of unexpectedly finding a happy ending.

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Review

Brave, devastatingly emotional, moving, heartbreaking, thought-provoking and yet there’s so much love in the Longest Farewell and ultimately, such a special kind of happiness.

I am pleased and privileged to review The Longest Farewell by Nula Suchet. It is with great thanks to her for agreeing to allow me to review her book. I also thank her for arranging with her publisher to send me a hardback copy.

Nula Suchet chronicled her life in the hope that anyone whose life is blighted with dementia can know that the tunnel they feel enclosed by need never be totally closed. The book is 182 pages and every word is evidently written from the heart. There is so much in this book to capture, so please bear with me.

At only fifty-seven years old, Nula’s husband was diagnosed with Picks disease – a rare form of dementia. This is an important book. It really shows that dementia really does not choose age or class or creed. It is a cruel disease at any age, but particularly to someone who was in his prime to then suddenly not be. There’s so much heartbreak when reading this book. Any reader, I am sure would feel it. This book is brave and must have taken a lot of courage to write as memories of a life since past, come to the fore once more in such a way, in order to write this brilliant book. The book begins with there just not being something quite right about James. The worry is there in the writing as is the fact that it perhaps makes more sense to put the new behaviours James is expressing, down to stress.

There is a strong glimpse into what life for James used to be like pre-dementia. I like that we are treated to the type of man he was and what he did. He had a strong place in the world, he created scripts for documentaries and wrote screenplays and worked very hard and over many hours. There seems to be a real sense of vibrancy and intelligence about James, even when there’s a bit about him meeting with a producer and normally he talks a lot about various ideas, when instead, there is a silence, that would by now, seem, to any reader as being unusual for James. There was an energy and enthusiasm in his work that was all of a sudden whisked away, leaving the love of his life wondering what to do. Nula writes unambiguously, throughout, including the emotions, the striking behaviours in James and Nula’s understandable initial denial that it could be anything other than stress or lots of time writing alone. There is a deep sense that every single sentence written is incredibly heart-felt and I believe other readers will feel this in their hearts too as I do in mine. There’s the feeling of anger too about what the Picks disease is doing to James. Everyone reacts differently and until dementia happens, you cannot fully really know how you will react, let’s just say, it is a familiar reaction. In amongst all of the different emotions and the having to deal with it, I like that Nula Suchet shows an air of determination to still to try to live life to the fullest with James, doing the things they used to enjoy together. There is however, such a bitter-sweetness. Nula Suchet writes about some wonderful memories, that seem so happy and full of love. There is such a determination to care for James. How hard this is isn’t sugar-coated as bit by bit it is there for all readers to see, but ultimately dementia is sadly taking over and behaviours, caused by Picks. Even before the chapter called Isolation, there’s a sense of it creeping stealthily and unwelcomingly in and life as they once knew it coming to a halt. Nula also has to give up working on her interior design business too. The writing is so amazingly strong, every aspect of the book is absorbing and all consuming in a good way because every emotion can practically be felt and empathised and sympathised with. I know this is a book that I will read more than once. I realised that before I even reached the end.

When Nula Suchet says about their being a comfort that she finally found a “good home” that did activities with their residents, even I feel gladness of that, because very unfortunately that isn’t always the case, as is pointed out in the book. Not that this makes anything any easier, not really, as travelling to the care home also is another emotional challenge of sadness as that feeling of guilt takes hold and lingers. The phrases used could not be put any better to describe that situation of struggle, anguish and the sheer depths of despair she goes to. Not one bit of it could be easy to have re-lived at all.

It is so interesting and thoughtful that other residents are remembered from Nula’s visits to see James and what I think readers, who perhaps don’t need to make visits to a care home will find is how different the residents all behave that she describes, as well as the feelings and vocal demands of James too.

The book then naturally merges into John Suchet’s life too as he and Nula meet and it is touching as she also gets to know Bonnie in the care home.
John Suchet is a broadcaster, currently on  the radio channel Classic FM.
It reads a little bit differently from what went prior. There are correspondences between Nula and John, which contain warmth, care and attention.

There are similarities in emotions felt and the emotionally charged writing, for he too is losing Bonnie – the love of his life all too early with the cruelty of dementia.  There are some parallels between their lives as a strong connection starts to build between them, such as John and Bonnie also travelled together whilst he worked – researching for his books. The connection builds into friendship and more and this is beautiful to read about as there is a clear hope and glimmer of happiness and being able to re-discover all the things they both enjoy and together. There are however a few times of understandable tentativeness at first and a challenging holiday in Greece together, which is written so well and with also recalling her own upbringing, which was so different from John’s. Hers, one of more turmoil and heartbreak, compared to John’s seemingly more perfect life. There is some comfort to be found in her insecurities as she asks calls “girly questions” due to insecurities. It is something many females will relate to, I am sure, but also the self-protection both males and females I am sure will relate to some degree. There are other trips where there are memories of James and the sadness that comes with it. There’s also more feelings of guilt and the pain of not being able to have a  coherent discussion with James about what she had been doing.

The further deterioration in both Bonnie and James and the medical issues and palliative care is not shied away from. It is told how it was for them. Poignantly there is a shared “list of nevers”, which is things they will never be able to do again.  It is by this time at its starkest yet as is the fact that dementia never leaves those who actually have it, but also others, like John and Nula, no matter what else is done in life.

Nula goes into some detail about the further deterioration of James and how it affects her relationship with John, who is also seeing this in Bonnie and is trying to cope with his own emotions, has to be given credit for being so incredibly patient and for showing such care and realising they need each other, even when emotion is trying to get the better of Nula and is trying to pull the relationship apart and almost forever, even after the funerals of James and Bonnie, which is chronicled with such respect. I found myself thinking thank goodness that Nula’s computer needed fixed and they were going to an expert together and she still agreed. Through all the devastation Nula and John lived through together, there is so much love and the ending is one that nearly was not, but my goodness I am glad it is just the best ending or perhaps best ever continuation of their lives may be more appropriate, for two people who have lived through so much and now bravely shared so much to the world.

There’s so much pain and guilt that is so understandable and deserves compassion. What is perhaps not actually said, is still there in-between the lines because this is actually an incredibly well-written book and written from the heart.

There are two sections of wonderful, meaningful photos that are excellently placed within the book. The first section, depicting happier times of James and Nula and they are so full of joy and life and yet there is a sadness because these are memories now of his work and of other life’s adventures they did together.  There’s also some other family photos too that are interesting to see. The second set shows James and Bonnie years into dementia and what it was doing to them, and yet they are so poignantly remembered through these photos. They are so tastefully done and with sensitivity. There are also photos of happier times again of Nula and John together, which are so heartwarming and they really do look so happy together. Each photo has its place. They seem so carefully chosen and go with the text before and after them. Every single expression looks so genuine.

I do also recommend reading the very important postscript. It highlights further the need for greater awareness and compassion for those with dementia. It isn’t just those who actually have this devastating disease that has still no cure to, it is everyone around that person. It highlights that care needs to be better and more research and more expertise needs to be put into it and that care, although can be good in some places of the UK, it isn’t always good around the UK. There’s acknowledgement of the greatest campaign’s so far, such as Line of Duty actress Vicky McClure’s Dementia Choir, hosted in Nottingham and Formula One champion Jackie Stewart launching a fund for research.

I have never read a book quite like The Longest Farewell before. The Longest Farewell is an important and timeless book in raising awareness of what Dementia can do and how it affects everyone’s lives and not just the person who is suffering from it. It also raises awareness of the inequalities in the care for dementia patients. There also is a need for more compassion towards people with dementia and their affected families around them.
For some, perhaps the book may also provide comfort and hope for those who are carers or are visiting their loved ones in a care-home that they aren’t alone.

It is also kind that Nula mentions that John also has a book called My Bonnie, documenting his dispair and loneliness about losing Bonnie to dementia. He also writes books about different classical composers in his fascinating Man Revealed series.

 

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There are Mysterious Goings on in Literary Morecambe – A Review of the Morecambe and Vice Festival @MorecambeVice #Crime #Festival #Morecambe #Lancaster #Books #Review

There are Mysterious Goings on in Literary Morecambe

A Review of the Morecambe and Vice Festival

An array of hats, talk of murder and other crimes, music filling the air and an art deco-hotel mixed together with a sense of quirkiness – it could only be The Morecambe and Vice Festival.

The weekend just past (28th-29th September) found me in Morecambe at the Morecambe and Vice Festival. A diverse and quirky crime festival that is in its third year. I first came here last year to meet Hugh Fraser (played Captain Hastings in Poirot and many other roles and is an author) – that’s a whole other story…
I had barely started my blog when I was first at the festival, and now with my blog being a year old, and grown somewhat, I was so pleased that kindly, the organisers invited me to review their festival on my blog. It was such a pleasure and privilege. It was an incredible opportunity given by Tom Fisher and Ben Cooper-Muir.

Morecambe feels like it is on the up again. There is a second series of The Bay being filmed there and they are getting The Eden Project and there is of course this wonderful festival called Morecambe and Vice, which is not afraid of diverse subjects or of inviting authors and other speakers from across the UK.

All Ready to Begin with Tom and Ben

Morecambe and Vice is now, as previously mentioned, is in its third year, but the reality is so much different. It feels like it has been going for longer. It is so professional, welcoming and yet so relaxed. Tom and Ben have clearly put in a lot of effort into making this year, like last year, a success. This is a festival where authors (and audiences) seem to like to be able to return to, given the chance.

I arrived on Friday afternoon and took a look around the streets and of course along the seafront and got ready for the Saturday at The Midland Hotel. The Midland is a lovely art-deco hotel and has featured in some tv episodes of Poirot by Agatha Christie. It was a terrific venue. I loved The Winter Garden’s Theatre the year before, but The Midland was warmer. Who knows where the venue will be next year… 

Midland Hotel
All Art-Deco at The Midland Hotel

Registration to introduce yourself and collect your badge was between 9:00am and 9:30am. It’s all wonderfully stress free and it was quite exciting seeing not only my name, but also my blog name on the badge. That was very nicely done.

The air was filled with music, including the theme tune to the Poirot tv series, which really grabbed everyone’s attention. All the music was very fitting for the time period and place where we were, which added perfectly to the amazing welcoming and exciting atmosphere that was building up as people began to fill the room. The stage was dressed and looking so good. I loved all the hats, so simple and yet so effective.

Stage and HatsStage is Set, Complete With Great Hats

The weekend was split into sections, after each panel had spoken, there was a very adequate interval for book signing opportunities and time to get a beverage. 1 hour for lunch was also well factored in. The atmosphere is fabulous with a pianist playing very well at each interval between the panels.

Over the entire weekend, there were 12 different panels of speakers – 6 each day.

Saturday:

  • What’s the Worst That Could Happen – Crime and Thrillers in an Apocalyptic Setting with Lesley Kelly, Ceri Lowe and Matt Brolly. Moderated by Tom Fisher.
  • Let them Lead the Way – Children’s and YA Crime with Nicki Thornton, Sarah Todd Taylor and Sharna Jackson. Moderated by Anne Coates
  • Discussing Dyslexia with Fleur Hitchcock, Jane Elson and Jennie Finch. Participating Moderator – Margaret Murphy.
  • Who, What, Where, When, Why – What can crime fiction tell us about the way works? With Academics – Mary Evans, Hazel Johnstone and Sarah Moore. Crime writers – William Shaw and Gytha Lodge.
  • Partners in Crime with Adam Croft and surprise guest bring their podcast to the festival
  • In Conversation with Lin Anderson – best selling author discusses her life and career with debut author Noelle Holten.Morecambe Sea

Sunday:

  • Festival of Festivals – Festival organisers discuss what led them to partake in such insanity with Bob McDevitt, Quentin Bates, Dr. Jacky Collins. Moderator: Ben Cooper-Muir.
  • Winner Winner – Prize winning authors discuss the pros and cons of their wins with Robert Scragg, Rachel Sargeant, Alison Belsham and Margaret Kirk.
  • Till Death Do Us Part – What’s it like being in a relationship with another crime writer? with Nicola Upson and Mandy Morton. Interviewer – Graham Smith
  • Femme Fatales with Eileen Wharton, Danielle Ramsey, Sheila Quigley, KA Richardson and moderated by Dr. Jacky Collins
  • Let’s Talk: Mental Health Mental Health in Crime Fiction and how Crime Fiction can help with mental health with Dr. Liz Brewster and Dr. Chris Merritt and participating moderator – Barbara Nadel.
  • In Conversation with Professor Dame Sue Black. The anthropologist, academic and author discusses her life and work with Ben Cooper-Muir.Morecambe Boats

This is a festival, even with the amount of travelling I have to do to get to it (3 trains), is absolutely a festival, if invited again, I would be delighted to return to and review. It is attracting some great authors and I love all that is on offer and the diversity. It was so interesting to meet lots of authors, including some great children’s and YA authors and some doctors and a forensic scientist. It was lots of fun that they had a podcast. It was all very different for a festival and I liked that a lot. I had a very enjoyable time and many happy memories were created of the place, the people I met and the festival as a whole.

With the scene now set, I will be also sharing my reviews of each panel over the coming week or so.

Eric Morecambe      Eric Morecambe   

 

 

A Book for Each Day of the Week #TheStrawberryThief @Joannechocolat #SummerattheKindnessCafe @Vicky_Walters #TheHangryHamster #SealedWithADeath @JamesSilvester1 #TheLongestFarewell @nulasuchet @johnsuchet1 #summer #bookish #crime #kidslit #romance #France #UK #Thriller #summerreads #review Resume of Reviews of 7 Great Books for Summer and Beyond

A resume of 7 great books I have read over the summer and beyond.

I have read and reviewed a number of books this summer. I thought I would give a quick resume of 7 of them. Full reviews are also in my blog. I have also provided individual links to the full reviews. Please do take a look, you may be inspired or reminded of a good book.

The Strawberry Thief by Joanne Harris – Fiction

Strawberry thief

The Strawberry Thief is the latest part of the Chocolat series, written by Joanne Harris

This book sees Vianne Rocher back in Lansquenette-Sous Tannes during Easter with strawberries and chocolate filling the senses. There’s also a change in the wind as there is excellent writing, truth and emotion in the writing as Anouk has grown up and flown the nest. This is in contrast to Rosette who cannot do this part of life.
Roux still lives on the boat, preferring his own company and there is a new character called Morgane Dubois.
The writing of the wind is beautifully descriptive and tells the reader there’s much more than just the wind to come and that it is meaningful. The growing up of children who fly the nest and set up their own lives is relatable. The book will arouse anyone’s senses and emotions. It is just as good as the previous 3 books within this series. The descriptive writing is atmospheric and adds to the intrigue as to how this book will end.

Note, there is also an added afterward about Joanne’s own experience of her daughter leaving home and there is a poignant, well-written short story in print copies only of this book that are well-worth reading.

Link below:

https://bookmarksandstages.home.blog/2019/06/02/the-strawberry-thief-by-joanne-harris-an-exquisite-atmospheric-and-poignant-book-5-stars-joannechocolat-orionbooks-gigicroft-thestrawberrythief-review-newbook-waterstones

 

Summer at the Kindness Cafe by Victoria Walters – Fiction

Summer at Kindess Cover (1)

Enter Brew – Kindness Cafe this summer and you won’t be disappointed. Enter Brew and be inspired to do your own random acts of kindness this summer, like the three women within this story.

Abbie Morgan is the main protagonist and is forced to leave London after being made redundant, something so relatable to many people.
Within the book there are sections called “Notes from the Brew Kindness Board”. This may inspire some people to follow-suit and do random acts of kindness. Get to know the characters and their personalities and see if Acts of Kindness transforms their lives or not.
Once the story has ended, turn the page for a lovely note by the author.

Link below:

https://bookmarksandstages.home.blog/2019/06/18/summer-at-the-kindness-cafe-by-victoria-walters-this-summer-be-encapsulated-in-warmth-kindness-and-life-vicky_walters-teambatc-summeratthekindnesscafe-randomthingstours-annecater-randomactof

The Hangry Hamster by Grace McCluskey – Fiction

hangry hamster

Have fun with this children’s book. Billy gets a hamster and takes him everywhere, until the hamster isn’t allowed on the plane when Billy is going abroad. The hamster gets left behind and becomes hangry and goes on an adventure through London. Take a read of this adventurous, exciting, humorous, well illustrated book, written by a child for children.

https://bookmarksandstages.home.blog/2019/07/14/the-hangry-hamster-by-grace-mccluskey-a-short-action-packed-book-to-engage-and-excite

Sealed with a Death – Fiction

Sealed with a Death Book Cover

Would you like a great political thriller? Give Sealed with a Death by James Silvester a try.

This book has got to be placed up there in one of the most current book in fiction there currently is. James Silvester writes very well and at excellent pace, in conveying what is happening and mixing it with his fictional. Meet Lucie Musilova – an assassin working as part of the Overlappers Intelligence Team. Women across many countries in Europe start to disappear, Kasper Algers, an Independent MP disappears and there’s still the case as to what happened to Ines Aubel. Readers are also taken into the world of brothels and further into the world of espionage and fake passports.

The book takes us to the far right of British politics and also to France where there’s the Gilet Jaune movement and the author takes this element into Britain. There’s also a focus on the everyday prejudices, pay as well as the cuts to police resources.

I have to say, I was impressed by not just how current this book is, but also the calibre of writing, considering the time it takes to write a book, especially well and how politics moves along at the moment. The language and tone of all the characters is believable, there’s no holding back!

Link below:

https://bookmarksandstages.home.blog/2019/07/15/sealed-with-a-death-by-james-silvester-jamessilvester1-urbanebooks-lovebookstours-politicalthriller-thriller-espionage-newreview-newbook

A Summer to Remember by Sue Moorcroft – Fiction

A Summer to Remember Cover

Clancy Moss is the main character, leaving her old life to start a new one. There’s romance, there’s social, tourism and education issues that are dealt with. From beginning to end this book has so much of human life and yet it feels as light as summer, and still it skillfully has meaningful substance. It is a most enjoyable and absorbing read of break-up, romance and life’s trials and tribulations and escapism. A Summer to Remember is a book to remember this summer and for more summers to come.

Please note, there is also an added short story in physical print copies of this book that is worth reading.

Link below:

https://bookmarksandstages.home.blog/2019/07/24/a-summer-to-remember-by-sue-moorcroft-a-delightful-summer-read-suemoorcroft-avonbooksuk-summer-summerreads-heatwave-review-newbooks-ebookpromo-norfolk-romance

 

Zippy and Me by Ronnie Le Drew – Non-Fiction

zippy cover

Ronnie Le Drew is best known as being the puppeteer for Zippy in children’s TV show – Rainbow. It is a well written autobiography about becoming a puppeteer, his starting out at the The Little Angel Theatre. Some of the hard time he had to go through (not a sob-story though, it is better than that). and the people he worked with such as Jim Henson and David Bowie. Ronnie comes across as being down-to-earth as he never forgets his roots. This book is also about a bit of Rainbow scandal and what happened to the people working in it afterwards. It is nostalgic to say the least. Readers will get a look of behind the scenes of Ronnie’s puppeteer work, which makes it a fascinating read.

Link below:

https://bookmarksandstages.home.blog/2019/08/02/zippy-and-me-by-ronnie-le-drew-with-duncan-barrett-and-nuala-calvi-re-visit-your-childhood-with-this-enlightening-book-about-rainbow-zippyandme-punchand-unbounders-duncanbarrett-nualacalvi-rai

The Longest Farewell by Nula Suchet – Non-Fiction

The Longest Farewell book pic

 Condensing my review down, only goes a little into what is really within the pages of this book. I will say it is a very worthy book to read, so please do take a look at the full review of it. I will also say it is the most emotional book of the summer. Nula Suchet’s husband James who, at the age of 57 had Picks disease – a form of dementia and this is chronicled very well in this book, with every heart-felt sentence. John Suchet’s wife – Bonnie also had dementia. It is heartbreaking and there is also so much love as Nula cares for James, who does go into a care home, but that is also where she meets John, who is there visiting his Bonnie. It is also about the relationship that develops between John and Nula and their travels together, that at first don’t exactly go smoothly. The writing is so amazingly strong, every aspect of the book is absorbing and all-consuming in a good way because every emotion can practically be felt and empathised and sympathised with. It is telling that it is all written from the heart and this part of both John and Nula’s life was not easy. It does however have the most happy of endings or rather shows the happiness of a continuation of their lives. 

Please do look at my full review for this book, if you haven’t done so already because just a few words only really highlights the book’s existence and a little of what it is about.

Link below:

https://bookmarksandstages.home.blog/2019/08/07/the-longest-farewell-james-dementia-and-me-by-nula-suchet-nulasuchet-johnsuchet1-serenbooks-david_suchet-vicky_mcclure-the_writereads-dementia-nonfiction-review-newbook

Review of The Longest Farewell – James, Dementia and Me by Nula Suchet @nulasuchet @johnsuchet1 @SerenBooks @David_Suchet @Vicky_McClure @The_WriteReads #dementia #nonfiction #review #newbook

The Longest Farewell – James, Dementia and Me
By Nula Suchet
Rated: 5 stars *****

About the Author

Nula Suchet was born and raised in Ireland, part of a large family. She studied Art and Design at Chelsea College of Art and became an interior designer, working internationally in the UK, Europe and the US. Now retired, she lives in London, with her husband, the broadcaster John Suchet.

About the Book

Dementia crept early into the life of James Black, insidious and unannounced. The result was a long farewell to him as he changed from a happy, successful film maker into a completely dependent care home resident, and a stranger to his wife, Nula.

Yet after seven stressful years, Nula’s life unexpectedly changed when she met a man whose wife was also a dementia patient in the home. Her friendship with John Suchet became a relationship, but theirs is a difficult road. There is joy, but also despair and guilt. Is even a moment of happiness allowed when their loved ones are in slow decline towards death? Theirs is a story that plumbs the depths but also reaches a happiness that they thought they would never experience.

The Longest Farewell book pic

Review

Brave, devastatingly emotional, moving, heartbreaking, thought-provoking and yet there’s so much love in the Longest Farewell and ultimately, such a special kind of happiness.

I am pleased and privileged to review The Longest Farewell by Nula Suchet. It is with great thanks to her for agreeing to allow me to review her book. I also thank her for arranging with her publisher to send me a hardback copy.

Nula Suchet chronicled her life in the hope that anyone whose life is blighted with dementia can know that the tunnel they feel enclosed by need never be totally closed. The book is 182 pages and every word is evidently written from the heart. There is so much in this book to capture, so please bear with me.

At only fifty-seven years old, Nula’s husband was diagnosed with Picks disease – a rare form of dementia. This is an important book. It really shows that dementia really does not choose age or class or creed. It is a cruel disease at any age, but particularly to someone who was in his prime to then suddenly not be. There’s so much heartbreak when reading this book. Any reader, I am sure would feel it. This book is brave and must have taken a lot of courage to write as memories of a life since past, come to the fore once more in such a way, in order to write this brilliant book. The book begins with there just not being something quite right about James. The worry is there in the writing as is the fact that it perhaps makes more sense to put the new behaviours James is expressing, down to stress.

There is a strong glimpse into what life for James used to be like pre-dementia. I like that we are treated to the type of man he was and what he did. He had a strong place in the world, he created scripts for documentaries and wrote screenplays and worked very hard and over many hours. There seems to be a real sense of vibrancy and intelligence about James, even when there’s a bit about him meeting with a producer and normally he talks a lot about various ideas, when instead, there is a silence, that would by now, seem, to any reader as being unusual for James. There was an energy and enthusiasm in his work that was all of a sudden whisked away, leaving the love of his life wondering what to do. Nula writes unambiguously, throughout, including the emotions, the striking behaviours in James and Nula’s understandable initial denial that it could be anything other than stress or lots of time writing alone. There is a deep sense that every single sentence written is incredibly heart-felt and I believe other readers will feel this in their hearts too as I do in mine. There’s the feeling of anger too about what the Picks disease is doing to James. Everyone reacts differently and until dementia happens, you cannot fully really know how you will react, let’s just say, it is a familiar reaction. In amongst all of the different emotions and the having to deal with it, I like that Nula Suchet shows an air of determination to still to try to live life to the fullest with James, doing the things they used to enjoy together. There is however, such a bitter-sweetness. Nula Suchet writes about some wonderful memories, that seem so happy and full of love. There is such a determination to care for James. How hard this is isn’t sugar-coated as bit by bit it is there for all readers to see, but ultimately dementia is sadly taking over and behaviours, caused by Picks. Even before the chapter called Isolation, there’s a sense of it creeping stealthily and unwelcomingly in and life as they once knew it coming to a halt. Nula also has to give up working on her interior design business too. The writing is so amazingly strong, every aspect of the book is absorbing and all consuming in a good way because every emotion can practically be felt and empathised and sympathised with. I know this is a book that I will read more than once. I realised that before I even reached the end.

When Nula Suchet says about their being a comfort that she finally found a “good home” that did activities with their residents, even I feel gladness of that, because very unfortunately that isn’t always the case, as is pointed out in the book. Not that this makes anything any easier, not really, as travelling to the care home also is another emotional challenge of sadness as that feeling of guilt takes hold and lingers. The phrases used could not be put any better to describe that situation of struggle, anguish and the sheer depths of despair she goes to. Not one bit of it could be easy to have re-lived at all.

It is so interesting and thoughtful that other residents are remembered from Nula’s visits to see James and what I think readers, who perhaps don’t need to make visits to a care home will find is how different the residents all behave that she describes, as well as the feelings and vocal demands of James too.

The book then naturally merges into John Suchet’s life too as he and Nula meet and it is touching as she also gets to know Bonnie in the care home.
John Suchet is a broadcaster, currently on  the radio channel Classic FM.
It reads a little bit differently from what went prior. There are correspondences between Nula and John, which contain warmth, care and attention.

There are similarities in emotions felt and the emotionally charged writing, for he too is losing Bonnie – the love of his life all too early with the cruelty of dementia.  There are some parallels between their lives as a strong connection starts to build between them, such as John and Bonnie also travelled together whilst he worked – researching for his books. The connection builds into friendship and more and this is beautiful to read about as there is a clear hope and glimmer of happiness and being able to re-discover all the things they both enjoy and together. There are however a few times of understandable tentativeness at first and a challenging holiday in Greece together, which is written so well and with also recalling her own upbringing, which was so different from John’s. Hers, one of more turmoil and heartbreak, compared to John’s seemingly more perfect life. There is some comfort to be found in her insecurities as she asks calls “girly questions” due to insecurities. It is something many females will relate to, I am sure, but also the self-protection both males and females I am sure will relate to some degree. There are other trips where there are memories of James and the sadness that comes with it. There’s also more feelings of guilt and the pain of not being able to have a  coherent discussion with James about what she had been doing.

The further deterioration in both Bonnie and James and the medical issues and palliative care is not shied away from. It is told how it was for them. Poignantly there is a shared “list of nevers”, which is things they will never be able to do again.  It is by this time at its starkest yet as is the fact that dementia never leaves those who actually have it, but also others, like John and Nula, no matter what else is done in life.

Nula goes into some detail about the further deterioration of James and how it affects her relationship with John, who is also seeing this in Bonnie and is trying to cope with his own emotions, has to be given credit for being so incredibly patient and for showing such care and realising they need each other, even when emotion is trying to get the better of Nula and is trying to pull the relationship apart and almost forever, even after the funerals of James and Bonnie, which is chronicled with such respect. I found myself thinking thank goodness that Nula’s computer needed fixed and they were going to an expert together and she still agreed. Through all the devastation Nula and John lived through together, there is so much love and the ending is one that nearly was not, but my goodness I am glad it is just the best ending or perhaps best ever continuation of their lives may be more appropriate, for two people who have lived through so much and now bravely shared so much to the world.

There’s so much pain and guilt that is so understandable and deserves compassion. What is perhaps not actually said, is still there in-between the lines because this is actually an incredibly well-written book and written from the heart.

There are two sections of wonderful, meaningful photos that are excellently placed within the book. The first section, depicting happier times of James and Nula and they are so full of joy and life and yet there is a sadness because these are memories now of his work and of other life’s adventures they did together.  There’s also some other family photos too that are interesting to see. The second set shows James and Bonnie years into dementia and what it was doing to them, and yet they are so poignantly remembered through these photos. They are so tastefully done and with sensitivity. There are also photos of happier times again of Nula and John together, which are so heartwarming and they really do look so happy together. Each photo has its place. They seem so carefully chosen and go with the text before and after them. Every single expression looks so genuine.

I do also recommend reading the very important postscript. It highlights further the need for greater awareness and compassion for those with dementia. It isn’t just those who actually have this devastating disease that has still no cure to, it is everyone around that person. It highlights that care needs to be better and more research and more expertise needs to be put into it and that care, although can be good in some places of the UK, it isn’t always good around the UK. There’s acknowledgement of the greatest campaign’s so far, such as Line of Duty actress Vicky McClure’s Dementia Choir, hosted in Nottingham and Formula One champion Jackie Stewart launching a fund for research.

I have never read a book quite like The Longest Farewell before. The Longest Farewell is an important and timeless book in raising awareness of what Dementia can do and how it affects everyone’s lives and not just the person who is suffering from it. It also raises awareness of the inequalities in the care for dementia patients. There also is a need for more compassion towards people with dementia and their affected families around them.
For some, perhaps the book may also provide comfort and hope for those who are carers or are visiting their loved ones in a care-home that they aren’t alone.

It is also kind that Nula mentions that John also has a book called My Bonnie, documenting his dispair and loneliness about losing Bonnie to dementia. He also writes books about different classical composers in his fascinating Man Revealed series.

James Longest Farewell

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Title: The Longest Farewell – James, Dementia and Me
Author: Nula Suchet
Publisher: Seren
ISBN: 9781781725184