Category death and dying

Where Memories Go Sally Magnusson Magnus Magnusson dementia Alzheimer'sWhere Memories Go, the brilliant and moving account of how Scottish broadcaster and author Sally Magnusson and her family cared for her mother Mamie during her long struggle with dementia, comes out in February 2014.

With Sally’s help we have created a Facebook page for the book. Our aim is to make it the place to find out more about Sally, her mother and the book; but also a forum for people who are affected, directly or indirectly, by dementia. The page is already up and running and we would be very grateful if you could take a look, like it and share it with your friends:

A little more info on the book…

Where Memories Go Sally Magnusson Magnus Magnusson dementia Alzheimer'sRegarded as one of the finest journalists of her generation, Mamie Baird Magnusson‘s whole life was a celebration of words – words that she fought to retain in the grip of a disease which

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is fast becoming the scourge of the 21st century. Married to writer and broadcaster Magnus Magnusson, they had five children of whom Sally is the eldest. As well as chronicling the anguish, the frustrations and the unexpected laughs and joys that she and her sisters experienced while accompanying their beloved mother on the long dementia road for eight years until her death in 2012, Sally Magnusson seeks understanding from a range of experts and asks penetrating questions about how we treat older people, how we can face one of the greatest social, medical, economic and moral challenges of our times, and what it means to be human.


BBC 2 Scotland will air Iain Banks last interview tonight. Iain was interviewed by BBC broadcaster and Two Roads author Kirsty Wark. You can take a sneak peek here:

Iain Banks: Raw

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Spirit will be broadcast on BBC2 Scotland tonight, Wednesday 12 June, at 21:00, and for a week afterwards on the BBC iPlayer. If you don’t live in Scotland, you can still access the programme on Sky (channel 970).

More info on the BBC Scotland website.

Hi Everyone!

A month has passed since our last Monday Blues Remedy and a lot has happened in the meantime: we celebrated our birthday (pictures attached!); we published some great books; and we received some very exciting updates on our forthcoming publications. So put your kettle on and forget about the biting cold outside (what happened to spring?!)…


Doodlemum – OUT NOW!

The lovely book from our favourite artist/writer/mum was published on February 28th. You might have seen the beautiful centre-spread Day in the Life of feature in Guardian Family, complete with Doodlemum’s pictures and an interview by Patrick Barkham; if not, don’t worry: you can still catch it online. Read the interview here and see the exclusive Guardian slideshow of original Doodlemum art here.

We ran a Doodlemum-centred Mother’s Day competition where we asked our readers to post their own doodles on our Facebook page and this is just one of the entries:









Quite something uh? Fede contributed his own drawing which received some mixed in-house reviews:






Also, the Daily Mail run a beautiful feature with the catchy headline ‘Doodles with oodles of love’. A little preview:








And a link to the online article on the Mail Online.


Until I Say Good-Bye (out on March 14th)

As publication date is getting near, Susan’s story is getting a lot of interest both here and on the other side of the Atlantic. Have a look at the Sunday Telegraph piece, complete with wonderful pictures:








Even more pics on the Mail online page here.

Plus, a very rare and quite intense interview with Susan herself is up on NPR. Since ALS affects the muscles in the body, Susan’s ability to talk has quickly deteriorated in the past few month, which is why hearing her voice feels so special.

Finally, here’s Good Housekeeping’s take on Susan’s memoir:

You might worry that a memoir about living with a terminal disease could be too upsetting. Instead, in Susan Spencer Wendel’s hands it is both life-enhancing and inspiring. In UNTIL I SAY GOOD-BYE she chronicles her last year of adventures as she wrings every ounce of joy out of her remaining months.

As always do keep up to date with all things Susan on her Facebook page (over 3000 Likes now), and remember to grab a copy of the Guardian next Saturday and have a close look at the cover of the Family section…


Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald (out April 11th)

Lots of updates on Therese’s Facebook page as publication gets near (only one month to go!). Gatsby mania is building fast: we have posted The Bookseller’s feature on all things Gatsby/Fitzgerald (complete with an interview to Lisa about Z) on our Facebook page; plus the April Vogue issue is just out, complete with an article on Zelda and an interview with Therese. Go grab your copy now!








Export copies are in and our beautiful hardbacks are due this week: exciting!


The Still Point of the Turning World (out April 11th)

Emily’s son Ronan, who was suffering from Tay-Sachs, died recently – just before his third birthday. Emily talked about him and about her experience as a grieving mum in her emotional interview on the Today show last Friday. Take a look here.

The book is receiving great pre-publication reviews and is, quite literally, the talk of the town in the US, with an interview and excerpt running in the Huffington Post; a magnificent review in the Boston Globe and two more interviews with Bodega magazine and Bookslut blog.

To learn more about Tay-Sachs and to raise awareness please visit the American National Tay-Sachs and Allied Diseases Association at


Eleven Days (out June 20th)

There’s no stopping Lea Carpenter’s book from becoming the literary debut of the year. We now have a quote from one of the Greats of American literature, Toni Morrison:

A compelling story made memorable by the strength of its elegant prose

And our lovely cover is going live this week:










TWO ROADS TURNED 2! A few pics from our ‘Two Roads turns 2’ party: thanks to all the people who stopped by to wish us well and taste Fede’s delicious, home-baked, awkwardly-named ‘Morning Glory’ muffins:

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A big thank you to all our followers and friends for the heart-warming birthday wishes!

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch with Jeffrey ZaslowThis month’s book club took a slightly different tack in the form of a conversation between Will Schwalbe and Lisa Highton, respectively author and publisher of The End of Your Life Book Club, but both connected through publishing to The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch.

The Last Lecture was one of the last books that Will was involved with before resigning his position as Editor in Chief of Hyperion Books, New York, in January 2008. Ironically, given that The Last Lecture is a book concerned with the imminent death of a man with pancreatic cancer, Will’s own mother had just been diagnosed with the same insidious disease. Lisa published the UK edition of The Last Lecture.


LH: The publishing of The Last Lecture was big news in the publishing world. The story of a man given a short time to live, and his ‘message in a bottle’ to his wife and young family, touched millions of people. Your mother read this in manuscript, didn’t she? Did you feel a little awkward giving her a book which so precisely mirrored her condition?

WS: I’d already left Hyperion when the finished manuscript came in – but my friends there shared it with me. Mom knew about Randy Pausch from a video of his last lecture that had gone viral, and from the news, and from my telling her about the book when my colleagues acquired the right to publish it. But I still wasn’t sure if she’d actually want to read it – I was worried that it would be too close. So instead of giving it to her to read, I mentioned that I was reading it, and then left it out in the open, on a table, for her to find. She read it right away – and had a reaction to it that surprised me. She said it made her feel lucky. I asked her how that could be, given that she had the exact same disease. ‘But he’s got three small children and will never see them grow up,’ she said. ‘And he’ll never know what it’s like to have grandchildren.’

I’m curious what elements of The Last Lecture spoke most directly to you, Lisa. Were there particular aspects of Pausch’s life or his approach to his death that were especially compelling for you when you were acquiring the right to publish the book in the UK?

LH: I think I must find approaching death compelling on some level. That may be age of course! But I’ve published a lot of books on this topic – some famous like Tuesdays With Morrie or The Last Lecture, others less so. I think the fascination is seeing what people do with their lives when they know how little of it they have left. Randy Pausch approached his demise with a kind of muscular energy and a goal oriented (dare I say male) list. His aim being to achieve his childhood dreams but also to leave ‘a message in a bottle’ for his children so they could understand his love for them. Do you think the appeal is as much in its wake-up call for all of us not to fritter our lives away and drift?

WS: Yes, I do think that’s part of it – we all know we need to ‘seize the day’ but most of us need to remind ourselves constantly of that. One of the things I love about the Pausch book is that he’s so specific. He starts by describing his situation as an ‘engineering problem’. The question he poses himself is how to spend what he knows is a limited amount of time, using lessons he’s learned from throughout his whole life. Even a simple thing like rethinking how you handle the telephone (Pausch said he never put his feet up when talking on the phone) is valuable to ponder. Handling the phone differently doesn’t just give you back hours every week – it changes how you look at your priorities, where you choose to spend whatever time you have left.

Do you find yourself employing any of Pausch’s more specific tips? I’d also love to learn more about lessons you learned from Jai Pausch’s book.

LH: One of my favourite chapters is ‘The Park is Open till 8pm’, when Randy’s preparing to get his diagnosis. It’s a perfect example of glass half-full. Whatever the outcome, he says to Jai, this is a wonderful day, right here right now. I also like his nod to manners and old fashioned courtesy, e.g. dance with the one who brung you (that metaphor could go far and wide!) and that a hand-written thank you note can make all the difference. Both are a reminder that the simple courtesies and respect for other people should never be forgotten, no matter how busy we are. Always take time to stop and say thank you – people like to be appreciated. We all need to remember to do that. So, thank you and I’ll leave it to you to have the last word on The Last Lecture.

WS: One of the best things about The Last Lecture is that it isn’t really possible to have the last word on it – it’s a book you can revisit constantly and it constantly gives new gifts and insights. But I think I’ll

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end by pointing out something we haven’t yet discussed – the incredible contribution of Jeff Zaslow, who wrote the first article on Pausch’s lecture and who helped Randy Pausch write the book. Tragically, Jeff died in a car accident on February 10, 2012, while promoting a wonderful new book he had written. Jeff Zaslow also left an indelible legacy. So I’d like to leave this post with heartfelt thanks to Randy and to Jeff, for their books and lives.

We are proud to announce a new acquisition for our spring list, UNTIL I SAY GOODBYE: My Year of Living With Joy by Susan Spencer-Wendel with Bret Witter.

Susan Spencer-Wendel, mango party, BREATHE DEEPLY

Susan and her husband John during a 'mango party' at their Florida home

Diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) in 2011, journalist and mother of three, Susan Spencer-Wendel was determined to make every day count with her friends and family. And, as a writer, her response is to write about it, with the support of Bret Witter, of DEWEY fame.

Described as THE LAST LECTURE for women, UNTIL I SAY GOODBYE is both the story of Susan’s determination to make the most of these final days and a series of inspirational reflections. Her end-of-life bucket list has taken her, so far, to the Yukon to see the northern lights; Northern

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California to see her birth mother; Budapest, where she and her husband spent the first two years of their marriage; Cyprus, to connect with her birth father’s family; and New York with her 14-year-old daughter to visit a bridal shop . . . for a future moment she can never share.

Lisa met Susan when she was in London, recently, and listened to Susan’s husband, John, reading out a moving extract from the book. Because of the progression of her illness, Susan’s now writing it all on her iPhone. But her skills as a writer are unimpaired, and her spirit, feisty humour and love of life shine through on every page.

This is a very special project – moving and inspirational – and we’re thrilled to be Susan’s publisher, along with seventeen other publishers around the world. Like THE LAST LECTURE and TUESDAYS WITH MORRIE, UNTIL I SAY GOODBYE is sure to touch people and remind them what matters in life, however long or short the time we have.

‘I’m glad people are moved. I’m happy {to} have stumbled, accidently, on something that crystallizes what it means to be a family, to grow up, to dream, to die, but more importantly to live fully and joyfully.’ Susan Spencer-Wendel

Guest blogger: Richard Pike, Rights Manager

Suite Francaise Irene NemirovskySuite Française is a book that had been on my reading list for several years.  I’d heard it being talked about so often, that I suppose I understood its importance without ever really knowing what it’s about.  When I saw it would be the subject of discussion at the seventh Two Roads Book Club, I thought it time to discover what makes this novel such an enduring topic of conversation.

Irène Némirovsky was already a successful author when, in 1941, she started to plan an ambitious new project – a 1,000 page novel in five parts, a symphonic story of the lives of the French under occupation.  Tragically the novel would remain unfinished.  Némirovsky, of Russian and Jewish descent, was taken under arrest to the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1942.  She died, at the age of 39, in August that same year.

The manuscript for the first movements of Suite Française, as well as notes for the final three parts (including, poignantly, ‘Peace’) were undiscovered until the late nineties, when Némirovsky’s daughter began typing up her mother’s writing in order to preserve it.  You can guess what happened next.  An incredible story appeared once more on the page, and in 2004 Suite Française was published for the first time. As Will had mentioned in his letter, the book’s very existence was a remarkable story in its own right.

The uncompleted novel is divided in to two parts.  The first, ‘Storm in June’, set in 1940, follows several characters as they flee Paris and make their way in the chaos that ensues. The second, ‘Dolce’, tells the story of the residents of Bussy, a small town coming to terms with life under German occupation for the third time.

As Will had guessed, we found it impossible to discuss Suite Française without referring to the context in which it was written.  Némirovsky describes events so recent in her memory, that it’s hard not to see the novel as a semi-historical document of France at that time.  For many of us it invited us to reconsider what we thought we knew about the Second World War, and we found a greater appreciation of how different people’s experiences of war could be.

Despite their terrible situation, we collectively felt little sympathy for many of the characters in the book, especially those from the higher levels of society, whose true nature is exposed when their behaviour is contrasted with the simply described suffering of the lower classes. It’s an interesting study of human character under duress, with events such as the Péricands forgetting to bring an elderly family member with them as they flee, or the wealthy Charles Langelet stealing fuel from unsuspecting refugees, helping to create a quite damning conclusion.

We also questioned how we ourselves would react under occupation. It may seem easy to pass judgment on the villagers of Bussy and others for their acceptance of the occupation, but when we were each put on the spot, several of us admitted that we would have acted similarly.  When so much of our identity is defined by our relationships, our homes, our career, is it really so simple to give up everything for something as uncertain as resistance?

We also touched upon how different life would have been in a world without twenty-four hour news and Twitter.  The fear and uncertainty that those fleeing Paris would have been multiplied by their not knowing what was really happening in the rest of France.

This is a book of many themes, too many for us to discuss in the space of one hour, but the beauty of Némirovsky’s writing is that the author’s own opinions or agenda are never overbearing or explicit.  Her narrative, in the style of the very best documentaries, prompts and provokes, but leaves the reader to draw their own conclusions.

And so this meeting of the Two Roads Book Club drew to a close.  As with all unfinished works of art, it’s easy to wonder ‘what might have been’. We were certainly left with the feeling that there was more to come after the slower pace of ‘Dolce’.  However, I think we did all appreciate the merits of what does exist.

The group was split when considering whether we would read more of the author’s work, but we all agreed that Suite Française challenged us to think again about a period that we had thought we understood well, and that the book’s very existence was a quite remarkable and important story in itself.

The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan DidionGuest blogger: Jason Bartholomew, Rights Director

The Two Roads Book Club met last week to discuss Joan Didion’s THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING. The tea was brewed, the pastries were glistening, and the conversation was flowing. Overall, the general feeling was each of us felt a strong connection to Didion’s book. Whether the book conjured up memories of funerals attended in Mexico, time spent working as a grief counsellor where this book was suggested reading for those in mourning, or perhaps that it simply served as a reminder of our own mortality — we all agreed Didion’s book was a moving account but not an easy read.

Personally, I very much enjoyed the book. Didion has written a phenomenal memoir of death, grief, and how life can change in an instant. There is such a sadness to the story, but the richness of the writing is transportive. The book opens with Didion’s husband dying suddenly of cardiac arrest. Didion had been preparing dinner in their apartment in Manhattan, and one moment her husband was alive — sitting in his favorite chair and reading — and the next moment he was dead.

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