Tuesday 25 June 2019

Memoir: All at Sea by Decca Aitkenhead

4th Estate, €16.99

All at Sea by Decca Aitkenhead
All at Sea by Decca Aitkenhead
Decca Aitkenhead
Deirdre Conroy

Deirdre Conroy

How life can change in the blink of an eye is poignantly narrated in this tragic memoir. As she did yoga stretches on her hotel terrace, Decca Aitkenhead watched her partner, Tony, playing with their four-year-old son on Treasure Beach, Jamaica. The next time she looked up, Jake's head was bobbing on a wave. A rip tide had pulled him out to sea. Decca ran down to the beach and found Tony had managed to swim out to the boy, Decca grabbed her son and swam back to shore. The tide was too powerful for Tony. He drowned before her eyes, leaving her alone with their two young sons.

The couple were a most unlikely match. She is an award-winning journalist for the Guardian newspaper, where she interviews leading public figures. Tony Wilkinson was a dreadlocked ex-con who had shot some pimps, dealt in drugs and had a crack cocaine habit when they met. Both were married when they met and lived on the same street in Hackney. Tony did not know his own parents, he had been fostered and adopted, dropped out of school and went to London.

Class features a lot in Aitkenhead's writing. While her milieu is media in middle class London, she is rooted in working class values. Tony's ability to exist in the liminal, appealed to her. He did not engage in class distinction. She explores the redemptive quality of their love, in a society where prejudice abounds. That fact is stranger than fiction is utterly confirmed in this compelling tale of love and loss.

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