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Why Not Me? A Story of Love and Loss by Barbara Want

Why Not Me? A Story of Love and Loss

Biography / Autobiography   

RRP £14.99

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March 2010 Editor's Choice.

An incredibly moving account of a widow’s grief, this does not make for comfortable reading all of the time but it is a raw and honest account of the various stages that grief takes on and how one woman is coping. Whether you have had a similar experience or not this is a compelling, powerful and emotional read.

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Dear Reader,

Why Not Me? is the deeply effecting memoir of a young mother whose husband died of cancer three years ago, leaving her with twin sons, aged four. It may seem a strange recommendation for an Editor’s Choice: there is no ‘happy ending’, no easy solution. But the book deserves to be championed because of the breath-taking, even brutal, candour with which the author describes her predicament. The sheer force of the writing distinguishes this book – it has a beautiful clear voice, and a remarkable lack of inhibition.

Barbara’s husband Nick, the much-loved presenter of BBC’s World At One, was first diagnosed with a rare cancer in 2003. Almost overnight Barbara had to adapt to becoming the prime carer of a disabled person, and then a widow and a single mother.

Whether it’s her account of the initial diagnosis, their trip to hospital for the amputation, her last minutes with Nick before he died, having to tell the boys that Daddy had gone, she has a cinematographic ability to relay each scene in unforgettable clarity. Her experience of losing the man she loved so much, of her subsequent breakdown, of attempting to have a relationship with another man - much to some of her friends’ disapproval - are all recounted with intimate precision.

The title of the book comes from something Nick said to Barbara when he was first diagnosed:

I don’t spend a lot of time thinking, ‘Why me?’ People always say that’s what you must think but I don’t. If you’re slightly fatalistic about cancer, as I am, then you always think ‘why not me?’
(Audio Diary April 4th 2006)

Barbara’s book will surely give enormous comfort to anyone suffering the loss of a loved one, as well as giving anyone trying to be supportive a greater understanding of what it’s like to be bereaved.

I hope you’ll agree that Why Not Me? is an exceptional piece of writing – and an unforgettable memoir.

Lucinda McNeile

Weidenfeld & Nicolson

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Why Not Me? A Story of Love and Loss by Barbara Want

This haunting memoir of grief recounts the death from cancer of Nick Clarke, much-loved BBC radio presenter of 'The World at One' - and the aftermath - from his widow Barbara's point of view.

With painful honesty, Barbara lays open her ambivalent feelings about the illness as it progressed, and her instinctive fear that this would be the end. As he got sicker, her fear grew, until he died an unfeasibly short time after his diagnosis.

Barbara chronicles in unflinching prose her life after his death. A howl of anguish and anger, she describes how many of her friends and colleagues don't call, and don't offer support - how alone she is, and how she struggles to explain the unexplainable to her young twin sons. She has a breakdown, and a short-lived relationship (met with condemnation from some of her friends) but knows the process of dealing with her grief is barely beginning.

A ruthlessly honest dissection of a widow's pain, this book is also a love story - an uncomfortably raw, utterly compelling memoir which ends without resolution; its author still fighting to come to terms with the hand life has dealt her.


'when it comes to exposing the painful truth about her own experience of living with the decline of the man she adores, Barbara Want is first-rate.'
Kathryn Hughes MAIL ON SUNDAY

'an agitated warning about the precariousness of life... The book is a powerful mix of anguished recognition and denial.'
Kate Kellaway THE OBSERVER

'compelling... courageous'

'this honest and angry memoir... by turns, shines with the light of her love for Clarke and echoes with the depth of her loss... it will be liberating for those who have been similarly bereaved to read Want's raw exposure of every emotion she felt'

About the Author

Barbara Want is a former BBC radio producer. This is her first book.

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Book Info

Publication date

11th March 2010


Barbara Want

More books by Barbara Want
Author 'Like for Like'


Weidenfeld & Nicolson an imprint of Orion Publishing Co


272 pages


Biography / Autobiography

Coping with death & bereavement



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