Notes on Grief by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie review – a moving account of a daughter’s sorrow

The novelist joins the list of great writers reflecting on loss with this eloquent meditation on her father’s death

In the last decades, the grief memoir has become a genre of its own, a form of public mourning and sometimes of self-therapy, where the bereaved search for a meaning in the chaotic pain that comes with the death of a child, a sibling, a parent, a friend or the imminent death of the self. But intense grief commonly turns a world upside down. The death of a loved one resists meaning and it plays havoc with the order and chronology of language. How can words give shape to shapelessness or articulate silence and dissolution? As Emily Dickinson said: “Abyss has no biographer.”

Several of the most powerful memoirs of recent years (Blake Morrison’s And When Did You Last See Your Father?, Helen Macdonald’s H Is for Hawk, Marion Coutts’s The Iceberg) grapple with this question of how grief threatens to obliterate language and erase the boundaries of selfhood and of time. The dead are not gone; time has ceased and time continues; the relationship is not over. Hisham Matar writes in his intensely moving requiem for his father, The Return, that “my father is both dead and alive. I do not have a grammar for him. He is in the past, present and future.”

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All in My Head by Jessica Morris review – a candid and defiant memoir about cancer

Morris resolves to fight her aggressor in this extraordinary account of her five-year struggle with ...

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Bittersweet by Susan Cain review – a mawkish manifesto for the happy-sad

The author of Quiet again bangs the drum for the world’s sensitive souls, but her unflagging earnes...

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Wendy Mitchell’s good-humoured practical guide to living with dementia has a deeper, more existenti...

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