From the bestselling author of The Tall Man and The Arsonist, a personal tale about death, life and the enchantment of stories. With illustrations by Anna Walker.
When Chloe Hooper’s partner is diagnosed with a rare and aggressive illness, she has to find a way to tell their two young sons. By instinct, she turns to the bookshelf. Can the news be broken as a bedtime tale? Is there a perfect book to prepare children for loss?
Hooper embarks on a quest to find what practical lessons children’s literature – with its innocent orphans and evil adults, magic, monsters and anthropomorphic animals – can teach about grief and resilience in real life. From the Brothers Grimm to Frances Hodgson Burnett and Tolkien and Dahl – all of whom suffered childhood bereavements – she follows the breadcrumbs of the world’s favourite authors, searching for the deep wisdom in their books and lives.
Both memoir and manual, Bedtime Story is stunningly illustrated by New York Times award-winning illustrator Anna Walker. In an age of worldwide uncertainty, here is a profound and moving exploration of the dark and light of storytelling.
Recently, Cheryl discussed the profound impact Chloe Hooper’s Bedtime Story had on her during our monthly Better Reading BE Facebook Live. Reading this now, I understand why. Bedtime Story is an exquisitely written, totally original book that will simultaneously break your heart and fill you with hope.
This is Hooper’s fifth book, she has previously produced works of both fiction and non-fiction, but this is a memoir. Her husband, author, academic and historian Don Watson, had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukaemia, and she needed to find a way to introduce new ideas about life and death to their children. She illuminates the way with stories and wisdom from classics, myths, legends and beyond, weaving these into a profoundly moving tale of one family’s journey through the realities of cancer treatment and Hooper’s own fears as she’s faced with immeasurable loss. This is heightened, as a parent, but ultimately this is a poignant story about children and grief.
I won’t spoil the experience by giving more away here, however this is an important read for anyone grappling with love, life and death. Throughout the book are moody illustrations by Anna Walker, adding to the beauty and atmospheric feel of this memoir.
Bedtime Story is a glorious journey for any reader to take. A privilege, really.