The day that went missing — A story of grief with a stiff upper lip ****

When Richard Beard was 11, his 9-year-old brother Nicholas (Nicky) drowned while the family was on holiday in Cornwall. Richard was with him in the water, and nearly drowned as well but managed to escape the sudden incoming tide. Only now,  nearly 40 years later, does Richard start to wonder what actually happened that day and immediately after.

When disaster strikes, the Beard family has an extremely British response. The parents take care of the funeral, the three surviving brothers do not attend the funeral (this was deemed too much for the young boys), and immediately after the funeral the family packs up again and continues their doomed holiday in Cornwall, in the same holiday cottage, visiting the very beach where Nicky drowned. Carry on and pretend that nothing’s happened. It seems as though the family collectively decided to forget Nicky’s excistence, and they hardly ever talked about it again.

At least, this is Richard’s experience of it all. As it turns out, all of his family members have remembered Nicky in their own way all this time, without him knowing about it. As he tries to recover the memory of his lost brother, he finds out how fickle memory can be, how things can be left out or even deformed, and most of all, how memories put far away can return when given the right trigger. Richard, being the last person to see Nicky alive, blames himself, his parents, and the beach for the loss of his brother. But is there anyone to blame?

Richard Beard’s account of dealing with grief is very recognisable, although it is a very British description. As a non-British person, the Beard family’s response to the whole thing seems very distant and perhaps a little strange, but then again I’m not sure there is a “correct” or “normal” way of dealing with grief. Everybody goes about it in their own way, and Richard Beard has only now felt that he was ready to face his past and the effect of his brother’s death on his own life. This is a beautiful, very personal account that I finished in basically one sitting. Recommended for everyone, as everyone will experience grief at some point in their lives.

Title: The day that went missing
Author: Richard Beard
ISBN: 9781910701560

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