Nocturne, by Helen Humphreys. Book report #19 (2020)

I have loved (or at least really liked) every book I’ve read by Helen Humphreys. I’ve had this one on my shelf for a few years now, and stayed away from it I think because it was likely to be very sad. I can now confirm that it was heart-rending, tear-jerkingly sad. But also so eloquently beautiful that it was wonderful to read.

Martin Humphreys was Helen’s brother. He was a concert pianist, teacher, and composer, and they were very close siblings from an early age. In July 2009, Martin was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer; he died in December of that same year. Through the 45 chapters (to mirror the 45 years of Martin’s life), she shares her grief and her memories in ways that allow you to know Martin, know how much she loved him, and how devastating his death was for her. As always when we lose someone close, there is a firm closing of a chapter in our lives along with a lingering pain that may ebb and flow but never recedes entirely.

Helen Humphreys prose is sometimes lyrical and poetic (she is both novelist and poet), and much of this memoir reads like a love poem to her brother, filled with the longing and loss of her grief. A passage I marked, that filled me with wistful longing for my own misspent youth:

“A good friend of mine says that one should do what one most wants in the morning, because a day always gets away from you. Life is like that too, and if you don’t do things when you’re young, it gets harder and harder to do them as you accumulate responsibilities and ties. I wish I’d known that then.”

7 – a book with a female author
19 – a book with a one word title
22 – a memoir

I see from my tracking that I need to be focused with my reading going forward, as there are several categories where I have read nothing yet. On the plus side, I have read 11 new authors so far this year!

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