the observer Sun 11 January 2009
Shortly after the death of his wife Joan in 2005, poet Dannie Abse began keeping a diary, making his first entry on his 82nd birthday. The resulting collection of tentative memoir and meditation proves an unexpected victory over Abse's natural urge to retreat into inertia and wordlessness. "Just thinking about Joan turns me over," he says, "including writing this." Abse finds himself terrified of driving (he was in the car accident that killed his wife) and even of leaving his local Hampstead. But amid his sparse, tender encapsulations of grief - "Joan is nowhere and no white freesias will ever again grace this house in Golders Green" - he manages to voyage into his literary past, finding increasing consolation.
the guardian Fri 17 October 2008
There are no chapters in this book, just dates. It is the story of one man's year as he struggles to make sense of a life without his wife of more than 50 years. The book opens with the obituary of Joan Abse, killed instantly in a car crash in June 2005. Throughout the book her husband will recall countless details of the accident that took "in one unpredictable moment, my lover, my ally, and my friend". You yearn for the respite of a chapter break, but there are none, just as there is "no happy ending". The reader has to come to terms with that, as does Abse, this famous poet and doctor, who carries on giving readings and attempting to watch football but whose mind is always occupied in recollection. There is some humour, and inconsequential details, practicalities and outbursts. Accounts of buying trousers, walking in the park and seeing friends are interspersed with memories of Joan and others; and with poems, anecdotes and stories which seem to appear in random order, as in a commonplace book, but which beautifully, painfully convey the intertwining filaments of two lives.