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All at Sea author Decca Aitkenhead answers Mumsnetters' questions

(44 Posts)
SorchaMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 07-Feb-17 14:03:41

Our February Non-fiction Book of the Month is All at Sea by journalist Decca Aitkenhead. We gave away 50 copies and we'll be discussing the book throughout the month.

All at Sea is Decca's honest and moving portrait of love and life in the face of the loss of her partner, Tony. In order to come to terms with his death, she takes us back to the beginning of their relationship. Far from self-indulgent, this is a book you will feel privileged to have had the opportunity to read.

We ask all winners to share their thoughts about the book on this discussion thread. If you're not one of the lucky 50 however, you can always grab a paperback copy of All at Sea.

We're also offering the chance to put your questions to Decca Aitkenhead. Post all your questions for Decca before midday on Monday 13 March. We'll post up her answers on this thread before the end of the March.

FoxInABox Sat 11-Feb-17 08:34:01

I got the hardback version for a bargain price on amazon last week, £2.54 delivered (new not second hand). Will be starting it today, I think I will be needing a box of tissues..

FoxInABox Tue 14-Feb-17 13:33:42

Finished today. My heart goes out to Decca and her family. Tissues are very much needed when reading her book. It is incomprehensible what they have been through, yet Decca writes beautifully and is completely honest throughout, sharing feelings we are all privy to yet seldom admit. I would like to ask Decca whether they still return to treasure beach? I was so glad the return trip was a success, and having featured so much in your life I hope you can continue to return. Also, did writing the book help? People often say it is a type of cathartis. My sister lost her husband unexpectedly two years ago and has found comfort in reading other people's stories who have gone through this sudden loss of a partner at a young age. I will be passing my copy on to her, I know she experienced a lot of similar emotions to yourself in the aftermath, and for those of us around her we also were stumped as to the right things to say or do. I can only thank you for sharing your story.

Lovelybangers Fri 24-Feb-17 20:18:22

I received a copy of this today in the mail. I assume it was from Mumsnet - but I hadn't had an email informing me of this.

A nice surprise regardless. I'll read it this weekend and post my question asap.

Thanks smile

mumofmadboys Fri 24-Feb-17 22:47:25

Thank you Mumsnet. I also received my copy today. Just need to finish my current book and then I'll look forward to reading this.

Missylou81 Sun 26-Feb-17 17:56:18

Fantastic book. It really pulled at the heart strings. Needed plenty of tissues. I couldn't imagine losing anyone so suddenly and in such a tragic way. I'm go glade she found the courage to return. To be completely honest this book broke me but also lifted my spirits. I will carry the book in my heart alway

barcelo Tue 28-Feb-17 00:24:46

This was an amazing read. i couldn't put it down - as I needed to find out that Decca and the boys managed to cope in the end.

I was reading with tears streaming down my face - DH says I need to read less emotional books. grin

I haven't thought of any questions just yet - but will certainly post some before the cut off date.

CoffeeandChocolateplease Wed 01-Mar-17 11:19:20

Thank you for this book - I received it on Friday and read it by Saturday evening. Your writing style is so easy to read, even though the subject matter is so sad. My heart goes out to you and your family and friends.

I would like to ask how you and your boys are doing now? Do they remember Tony and talk about him? My father died when I was 7 and I don't really remember us ever talking about him much after that, so I don't have a lot of memories of him. I think your book will be a wonderful gift for your children in that respect.

whitestephens16 Wed 01-Mar-17 13:19:16

Received book Mumsnet thanks - will read and post asap

Booklover123 Wed 01-Mar-17 13:42:46

Thankyou, I received my copy as well and read it cover to cover in 2 sittings!it is poignant and heart wrenching and I have nothing but respect and admiration for you Deccan. My question to you Deccan is today, how are you all coping and do you talk frequently with the boys about tony?

dstill1964 Wed 01-Mar-17 19:10:26

Fantastic book that I just couldn't put down. Very well written. Wish Decca and the boys well for the future x

jammy388 Fri 03-Mar-17 10:14:09

I felt this was a striking and authentic portrait of grief, though personally I found it hard to identify with many of the people described in the book.

Sallychaffe Sun 05-Mar-17 09:06:48

My husband died in 2013 whilst receiving treatment for cancer.
Reading the about the mental state and emotional journey Decca went through was cathartic. The disbelief is still with me and i feel his loss daily. I will recommend this book to my book club . So glad that Decca managed to find peace and hope and life back at treasure beach.

sjonlegs Sun 05-Mar-17 12:44:34

So THIS BOOK ... it arrived the other day. I picked it up, wowed at the reviews then put it down again with every best intention - then life, as ever took over.

This morning my son woke me up super early. So I started.

70 pages in and I am beside myself with emotions of every kind. I've a feeling this book will be one of those that remains with me always.

Until life stops getting in the way again, I will be desperately awaiting some quiet time to resume!!

papaver Mon 06-Mar-17 17:58:35

Thank-you for this book. I thought the fact that Decca is an experienced journalist shows in the very readable prose. The subjective way she talks about her behaviour, thoughts and self-consciousness even when less than personally flattering make it a very engaging read.

MrsSpa Tue 07-Mar-17 21:37:45

This was a very engaging read, and I liked the writing style. I was particularly struck by the issues Decca had when meeting new people; when to mention Tony, what tone to use, trying to protect others feelings. I didn't notice any answers though...

starlight36 Thu 09-Mar-17 11:52:24

An engaging read. The subject matter really clicked with me as my father died when I was young and my mother died last year - both were sudden and unexpected. It was comforting to read some of Decca's reflections on having 'shelved' some of the emotions about her mother's death as people didn't really discuss it with her as I think I did the same when my father died. It was traumatic for my mother to suddenly be a single Mum in her early forties, both to bring us up and to have adult friendships which revolved around other couples. As a family we probably didn't talk enough about Dad in our efforts to carry on with our new life. I now struggle to have any real memories of our life together as a family.

My question to Decca: Does she feel that she is able to keep the right balance of talking to Jake and Joe about Tony whilst also being able to live life in the present?

starlight36 Thu 09-Mar-17 12:26:02

I forgot to say that this book is going to be such an amazing legacy for your sons to read when they are old enough.

I also forgot to mention how I agreed with your experiences of planning a funeral. I had so many deliberations over our service and received similar criticisms over some of my decisions. I agree that anger is often a coping mechanism for how others grieve .

oldwife Thu 09-Mar-17 14:07:08

What is next,Decca?

Any plans to live or spend much more time over in Jamaica? Or staying put in UK?

I would re-read it to see if anything else occurs to me but I can't bear all the crying again.. ;)

sumac Fri 10-Mar-17 12:27:02

All at Sea is wise and honest. Decca Aitkenhead writes precisely and evocatively and is very hard on herself.
Decca calls her and Tony the ‘most implausible couple I have ever known.’ Decca’s own identity is hard to place, her parents were well-educated but poor. But she undoubtedly moves in white middle-class circles and the Tony she first meets is a mixed race drug dealer, who is addicted to crack and admits to enjoying violence.
When he drowns trying to save his son, despite now being a responsible clean father, he is still judged. ‘Was he drunk?’ people ask.
In telling her story, Decca has many interesting things to say about class, race, being a parent, being a child, and bereavement, among others.
I particularly liked the description of how Jamaicans are straightforward and honest about death, seeing it as part of life. This contrasts with English people who get embarrassed and uptight when talking to bereaved people.
Decca’s own mother died of cancer when Decca was nine, and this is central to the whole book. Decca describes how she controlled her emotions when her mother died, and she continued to do so throughout her life, until Tony died.
I read this book quickly and will return to it – it is powerful and moving.
I hope writing it helped you Decca, and I would like to ask what your next project is, and how you and the boys are doing.

alialiath Fri 10-Mar-17 19:55:46

This was a very hard read for me, as we've had four separate drownings in my family over the years, but I appreciated the beautiful, but brutal honesty of the book.

I'd like to ask Decca if her sons have any contact with Tony's daughter.

LadyDianne Sat 11-Mar-17 06:41:23

I found All at Sea mesmerising, as a study in grief, but mainly because I have never before read a novel where the author is so unsparing of herself, so totally transparent. How did you come about such self knowledge?

Celama Sun 12-Mar-17 09:56:22

This was a beautifully written and searingly honest book and I hope writing it was cathartic for Decca. It will stay with me for a long time and I have no doubt that I will read it again.

My question for Decca is, at the start of the book, you recall seeing Jake in the water and at that point Tony doesn't appear to have noticed. Because things went so horrifically wrong afterwards, do you feel that you have been cheated out the chance to be angry that the situation arose? You couldn't be angry with Tony because he drowned and you couldn't be angry with Jake because of the damage that would inflict.

Also, if the will issue hadn't arisen, do you think that Jake and Joe might have been able to have a relationship with their half-sister as children assuming that they know about her?

mumofmadboys Mon 13-Mar-17 07:48:37

All at Sea is very well written and engaging. It was hard to put down. Decca was so very honest about her feelings that you have to admire her. It is so very sad that Tony died after all that he did to change his life and the birth of two lovely sons.My question would have been to ask how the three of you are doing nearly three years on. However I googled the tragedy and found out that since then you have had breast cancer. I m so sorry you have had another very difficult situation to cope with. I hope all goes well for you and the boys. Do you maintain a relationship with Tony's adopted family?Have you written any other books?

Sunflower22 Mon 13-Mar-17 08:44:31

I absolutely loved the book but it is a heart-breaking read. I was in tears more than once. And I was even more shocked to discover that Decca was diagnosed with cancer. It feels so unfair that one family has to endure so much. I would love to know how she and her boys are doing, especially Jake? Will there be a "sequel"? Thanks and all my best wishes.

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