In the High Peaks

Friday, June 16, 2017

In Memoriam: Helen Dunmore (1952-2017)

Oh, it has been a dark day in my personal literary world. And, for many others' as well, I'm sure. I counted Helen Dunmore as one of my favorite contemporary authors. Her books have moved me deeply, deeply. Her death is tragic, because cancer robbed her of many more creative years. She was only 64. (Born December 12, 1952).

Just this past February I read her novel The Betrayal, which is set in the last 7 months of 1952, during the final months of Stalin's dictatorship, when no Russian could be certain that they were safe from exile and decades of imprisonment in Siberia. Her story of a family trying desperately to weather this storm and eke out some happy times was extremely moving.  Here is a link to my previous comments about this novel.

I thought that The Lie was an exceptionally well-done, very different, and provocative novel of a returning World War I veteran to Britain, though I quarreled with her about the ending.

I simply loved The Greatcoat, a novel that did not win any prizes as most of her novels did. It's a pastiche, really, a minor ghost story, and a major "sock in the ribs" for anyone, anywhere who has lived in a place or on a site where desperate history happened. It's not a long novel, but it's one that I will read again and again.


  1. I hadn't heard this sad news, (so much constant bad news over here) but I knew it was only a matter of time for her. . I read The Betrayal as you had been so impressed by it and I wasn't disappointed, I'll definitely be reading whatever else she wrote.

    1. I certainly know what you mean about an unremitting barrage of bad news. And for you, such tragedy and loss of life. Deeply concerning.
      I agree that I, too, want to read more of Helen Dunmore. I've got one of her earlier novels here that I haven't read, Zennor in Darkness. It's set sometime during World War I, or maybe also just after, I can't recall. And there are plenty of others.