END OF LIFE and a MYSTERIOUS BOOK by Enid Richemont

There are so many books one reads for pleasure, and admiration for the writing, but there are some stories, not necessarily by well-known authors, which strangely settle in the psyche and just don't go away. One of these, title and author unknown to me at least (perhaps you can identify it for me?) and possibly picked up in a charity shop, came with the most extraordinary and unusual premise, and with an unforgettably moving ending which I won't reveal here as you may well know who the author is, but may not have read the book. The premise is based on the second nativity of a divine child, not necessarily Jesus, to a woman who is the very opposite of Mary - a twenty-first century and very sexually experienced woman in her late twenties? early thirties? drinks quite a lot, and smokes etc, who is visited in her bedroom by a very sexy male angel. At first she assumes he's a burglar?pervert? but it becomes clear that he's not because he's gentle and respectful (and very sexy) - it's just that his message to her makes no sense at all: she has been chosen to bear a very special Child. I mean, is this guy a nutcase? If this rings a bell with anyone, I'd love to know who wrote it, and how their career progressed afterwards because I've never forgotten it.

Having a book deeply resonate with a reader is so moving for the author, and a few months ago, this happened with one of my own earlier books at a time I'd assumed it had been totally forgotten. MY MOTHER'S DAUGHTER, a Young Adult novel, was written at a time when I was having quite serious problems with my own daughter, and first published by Random House. Set in mid-Wales, but also London, it involved a painful exploration of adolescence and also senility, as it featured an old lady who had hallucinations, and who was almost certainly suffering from dementia.

Someone had read the book over twenty years ago, and had never forgotten it, so they posted smatterings of the plot, author unknown, on Facebook, and miraculously this got through to me. Cue one extremely touched and flattered author, and very happy reader. The book is available as an e-book for the Kindle, if you're curious, and although there were two very different cover illustrations, one for the paperback, I used just this one (the hardback), as I so much disliked the paperback image.

As I am a dedicated supporter of Assisted Dying, I do often, in imagination, visit the endgame on behalf of myself. In literature, good endings are so important, so how might mine be? We'd all like to die in our sleep, but that blessing isn't automatically granted. Having experienced hospitals, they wouldn't be my place of choice, and as for the horror of care homes...

So if physical problems became life-destroying, what would I do? Go to Switzerland? Efficient but expensive. In my mind, I have long had a simmering short story plot which has someone en route to Switzerland is in a plane about to crash - how more intense contemplation on life that would be is hard to imagine. A DIY job, then? It would have to be efficient, swift and painless, and who would find the body? In one of my many fantasies, I book into the Ritz - a posh room, a final amazing meal, excellent wine, an effective terminal potion, and then - adios amigos. But then the poor, shocked chambermaid...

Someone wrote a science fiction-type short story many years ago, based on the idea that every human being might be genetically adapted to engineer his/her own death by activating a physical but hard-to -reach part of the body, but the sociological effect of that turned out to be that humanity lost all its creatives.



Susan Price said…
I can't identify the book you're looking for, Enid -- but so happy for you that the fan got in touch!

As for assisted dying -- it's difficult, isn't it? I think EXIT used to recommend painkillers, alcohol and a plastic bag secured over the head before you passed out. But how could you be sure of securing that bag if you were on the point of passing out?

To spare the relatives or poor shocked chambermaid, I've thought of finding an out of the way thicket to crawl into. But what if you're not physically capable of that? And what about the poor shocked dog-walker?
Enid Richemont said…
A relief to see you've been exploring EXIT too, Susan.
I'm hoping someone can identify the novel. I'd LOVE to post the ending, but won't, for obvious reasons.
Lydia Bennet said…
Enid, strangely enough the plot you mention is a major part of the film Dogma, by Kevin Smith. It's very sweary and violent and hilariously funny with some great characters but some important themes about religion, God and a possible divine child, salvation etc. The angel who visits the chosen woman is played by Alan Rickman, and you don't get much sexier than him in his prime, and she does indeed take him for a pervert. Plus you get Matt Damon etc. It's a weirdly similar plot for a different story, unless the film was partly based on a book or story, though I've never heard it mentioned before.

As to assisted dying, it's worth reading up on means of death, so many of them can go very wrong so it's vital to choose well. Also, though of course I'd prefer relatively painless, I'm actually not keen to die in my sleep, because I want to be aware of what's happening - I have seen someone I love die but it's hard to tell what they are perceiving at the time and I'm curious to know what it's like.
Bill Kirton said…
Plenty of mountains to climb up here in Scotland, Enid. Go high or remote enough, and one might never be found before the various natural inhabitants had reduced the remains to bones and a pair of boots. Of course, the climb might kill before one got high enough...
But, despite my apparent flippancy, I know it's a serious dilemma, worth more consideration than I seem to be giving it. Health problems at the beginning of the year reminded me quite starkly of my own mortality (not that any reminder was needed), and it does make one start asking oneself quite uncomfortable questions.
Sorry I can't help with the book/author you're seeking. Sounds fascinating, though.
Umberto Tosi said…
My Mother's Daughter sounds like a fascinating, moving work, worthy of a new edition, if one is not already in the works. It certainly remains relevant.
Enid Richemont said…
Lydia, re- DOGMA - that's so interesting. I will look for it. Still no name for the author, though, but in the film busness, the author's at the bottom of the food chain, as I've recently discovered to my cost. And on death, no one actually in the process gives us a running commentary, apart from fanciful visionaries. EXIT is very informative on the means, though.

Scotland's so beautiful, Bill - what a way to go!

Umberto - the book's available for the Kindle if you have one.
Sandra Horn said…
I love My Mother's Daughter, Enid! It's one of those stories with profound depths under a most enjoyable read. As for assisted dying - I wish I believed I was brave and committed enough to organise it, in consultation with my loved ones, though, not creeping off to be discovered by a stranger.I believe the Koestlers did it on a sleeper train and left an explanatory, apologetic note on the door for the steward. Hmmm.

Popular posts

A Few Discreet Words About Caesar's Penis--Reb MacRath

Margery Allingham and ... knitting? Casting on a summer’s mystery -- by Julia Jones

A writer's guide to Christmas newsletters - Roz Morris

Irresistably Drawn to the Faustian Pact: Griselda Heppel Channels her Inner Witch for World Book Day 2024.

What's Your Angle--by Reb MacRath