Before the light fades

Natasha Walter


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31 August 2023
ISBN: 9780349017822
256 pages

From the publisher

‘Truly fascinating… A powerful reminder that our actions really do matter’ LUCY ATKINS, Sunday Times

‘Deeply affecting and unexpectedly inspiring… the perfect read for daunting times’ SARAH WATERS

‘Beautiful… illuminating and healing’ JULIA SAMUEL

‘Eloquent, piercing, gloriously humane’ PHILIPPE SANDS

One day in December, Natasha Walter’s mother Ruth took her own life.

At first, the grief and guilt that Natasha felt were overwhelming. As the author of feminist books and the founder of the charity Women for Refugee Women, Natasha had always been active in movements for social justice. But in the aftermath of her mother’s suicide, her personal grief intertwines with a sense of political despair.

Gradually, she starts to search back through Ruth’s history, trying to understand how her life led to this death. She explores Ruth’s own involvement as a young woman in the nuclear disarmament movement of the 1960s. Even though Ruth had been brought up to be a conventional young woman, she chose to take huge risks and break the law in order to stand up for what she believed was right. This was where Ruth met and fell in love with Natasha’s father, the anarchist writer Nicolas Walter.

Natasha also explores the history of Ruth’s parents, particularly the story of her grandfather Georg. He was involved in anti-Nazi resistance in the 1930s in Germany, was imprisoned for three years and then went on the run across Europe. Eventually he got to safety, and never spoke again about his experiences.

In thinking back through the years, Natasha comes to a deeper and more hopeful understanding of the legacy that her parents and grandparents leave her. No longer overwhelmed by grief, she comes to value the courage of past generations. She steps back into activism, and values the beauty of everyday life once again.

Without false hope, this book explores why it is always important to stand up for what you believe is right, even when success is far from assured. This is a memoir that is honest about loss, but also searches for what is valuable in the legacy of one family that lived through some of the great crises of the twentieth century. It will resonate with those grappling with the loss of hope in these challenging political times, as well as those who are living in the shadow of bereavement.