In Love by Amy Bloom: ‘He is a strong, determined man of mettle and courage’

Cover image for In Love by Amy BloomI’ve been a fan of Amy Bloom’s writing for many years. Both her short stories, collected together in Rowing to Eden, and her novels are marked by clarity, elegance and insight. It’s been over four years since White Houses was published and In Love, her memoir, explains the saddest of reasons why. In 2019, Bloom’s husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and within days had decided he wanted to end his life while he was still himself.

Brian and I were always stickily close; we liked to grocery shop together. We liked to go to the fish market and the bakery and the dry cleaner’s together

They’ve been married for nine years when Bloom begins to notice things are a little off. Brian confuses things, forgets crucial details, is irritable and has occasional problems with his balance, all things easily explained away for a man in his early sixties but three years later he’s had to give up work, rarely attends the book group which gave him such joy and calls his beloved granddaughters ‘darling’ or ‘little girl’ rather than using their names. The diagnosis is shocking but not surprising. Brian quickly decides what he wants to do but making arrangements is beyond him. It falls to Bloom to research how to set about helping this man she adores end his life, knowing that it’s the best thing for him but the saddest for her. Travelling to Dignitas in Zurich, it seems, is the only safe solution and that’s what they do, having clambered over many hurdles before Brian is given the green light. They fly together on January 26th, 2020. Bloom returns on Thursday evening, a dear friend accompanying her.

After Dr G. leaves, and I cry some more and Brian is dry-eyed, I can see how far away he already is. His little boat is far offshore now

Bloom alternates her four days with Brian in Zurich with snapshots of their life together ending with their wedding day. They’re a couple who delight in each other’s company. A fervent football fan, the sport that won him a scholarship to Yale, Brian was also a fisherman with enough stories to bore his wife, enjoyed introducing his non-fiction book club members to favourite novels, made stained glass, and after choosing not to have children, adored his granddaughters as much as they adored him. In clear-eyed, straightforward prose, Bloom records the years of small changes that became undeniable, the devastation of Brian’s diagnosis and the hard painstaking research needed to find a safe way for him to end his life without repercussions. She captures the grief and sadness of living with someone with dementia but she’s unafraid of dark humour or of giving vent to the exasperation and exhaustion of both becoming a carer and dealing with uncooperative authorities. A quiet testament of love, the book, is of course, dedicated to Brian who’d said, “please write about this”.

Granta Books: London 9781783787999 224 pages Hardback

That’s it from me for a couple of weeks. I’m finally setting foot outside the UK on Monday, flying to Italy unless, of course, British Airways cancel our flight yet again. We’ve been watching Stanley Tucci’s Searching for Italy in preparation which has properly whetted our appetites. If you’ve access to iPlayer, I’d thoroughly recommend it.

18 thoughts on “In Love by Amy Bloom: ‘He is a strong, determined man of mettle and courage’”

  1. This book sounds so heartbreaking Loved Tucci’s series. Now of course I must get his cookbook as well. Have a fabulous time in Italy!

  2. This sounds like an extraordinarily poignant read. Quite a tough read perhaps but maybe a cathartic process for the author.
    Really hope you have a wonderful holiday.

  3. I wish we could get it sorted so that people didn’t have to travel abroad to end their lives with dignity.

    Have a lovely holiday with lots of gelato!

  4. Oh goodness this sounds like an important read. Wishing you a wonderful holiday. We’re off in the opposite direction tomorrow to Orkney – can’t wait!

    1. It certainly is, Liz. We’re enjoying the lakes where we have mountain weather but it looks like a heatwave in Milan next week, though. Have a lovely time on Orkney!

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