“So now I am afraid that by writing this story, I will make it untrue. Chapter headings and syntax and punctuation will elbow all my tears and grief out of the way, until the catastrophe has been reduced to just another piece of work, and my memories of what happened have been replaced by this printed version, creating a safe distance between myself and the horror.”
As an outsider to Decca Aitkenhead’s personal life, I cannot say for certain if she accomplished what she had originally set out to with this story. But what I can say after reading her memoir, All At Sea, is that it felt like an honest approach to storytelling.
There’s a candor within her writing that grips you. It’s lyrical, descriptive, and heartfelt all in one fell swoop. Decca tells the tale of a relationship with less than idyllic beginnings that transforms into an almost fairy tale. Unfortunately, her story lacks that happy ending in which the two lovers grow old together. But life doesn’t always work out as neatly as we envision it.
The book begins with the tragic event of Decca’s losing her partner, Tony, in a drowning incident where he in turn, saves their oldest sons life. She’s able to pull you in as a reader from the start, if not by her lovely style of writing, but by your need to know what the next part of her life unfolds.
Of course she doesn’t start directly there. We get the full picture of Decca’s life before Tony. And her life pre-Tony is just as intriguing as her life with Tony, or towards the end of the novel, post-Tony.
Decca talks about losing her mother at such a young age that she couldn’t quite understand the impact this death would have on her life. And this definitely explain why she takes the aftermath of Tony’s death so hard. Of course, losing the man/woman you love would be difficult on anyone no matter the circumstances. But one really feels an overwhelming for Decca because she’s not quite used to learning how to grieve. And how to grieve while remaining a mother and sole provider to your children, only seems to magnify your empathy as a reader.
But in the face of all the sadness this story stirs up, you also get a sense of the love & devotion that Decca and Tony shared with one another and with their children.
As someone who really doesn’t read nonfiction or anything closely resembling reality, I was so glad I strayed from my comfort zone with All At Sea. This is a touching, real life story that doesn’t come across as melodramatic or a publicity stunt of any kind. This is a realistic portrayal of redemption, loss, and enduring love between everyday, ordinary people. And in a way, that makes even lovelier story that deserves every one of those ★ ★ ★ ★, this lowly reader gave it. I would recommend if you want a little bit of inspirational, heartfelt nonfiction.
Until next time my fellow readers!