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Before the Light Fades

Paperback / ISBN-13: 9780349010595

Price: £10.99

ON SALE: 2nd May 2024

Genre: Biography & True Stories / Memoirs

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‘A fascinating story of courage, doubt and defiance across three generations’ SARAH WATERS

‘A fierce and beautiful book’ EDMUND DE WAAL

‘Heartfelt and upfront… A grieving daughter rediscovers her mother’s political past’ BLAKE MORRISON, Guardian

‘A compelling reconstruction of her mother’s life as a young anti-nuclear activist defying her suburban parents’ CATHERINE TAYLOR, Financial Times

‘Eloquent, piercing, gloriously humane’ PHILIPPE SANDS

After the sudden death of her mother at age 75, Natasha Walter was thrown into a time of bewilderment and sadness.

It was only when she began to search back through Ruth’s history, that she began to understand how her life led to death by her own hand. She learns that Ruth had been brought up to be a conventional young woman, but chose to take huge risks and even break the law for her beliefs in the nuclear disarmament movement of the 1960s.

Reaching further back she explores the history of Ruth’s parents, and the story of her grandfather who, as part of the anti-Nazi resistance in the 1930s in Germany, was imprisoned for three years and then went on the run across Europe, finally finding safety in England.

Honest about loss, this memoir also searches for what is valuable in the legacy of a family who lived through some of the great crises of the twentieth century. Without false hope, and with honest passion, Natasha Walter shows us why, even when success is far from assured, it is always important to stand up for what you believe.


This is a potent book... Walter spreads it out before us with great tenderness, exquisite writing, clear eyes and an open heart
Louisa Young, Perspective
Walter's wise, thoughtful memoir is both deeply affecting and unexpectedly inspiring. A fascinating story of courage, doubt and defiance across three generations, it's the perfect read for daunting times.
Sarah Waters
An important and beautiful memoir about how a daughter's feelings for the loss of her beloved mother changes and evolves through grief... dark, painful but also illuminating and healing
Julia Samuel
A fierce and beautiful book
Edmund de Waal
A book about sadness and memory and the attempts people make to come to terms with overwhelming pain... provides an interesting contrast between the feminist issues that ran through her mother's life and those that have determined her own
Caroline Moorehead, Times Literary Supplement
An examination, both glancing and gripping, of [her mother's] life... Walter's familiarity with the displaced and fearful makes her a gentle chronicler of the lives of her grandparents
Claudia Fitzherbert, Literary Review
Deeply passionate and humane... [a] compelling reconstruction of her mother's life as a young anti-nuclear activist defying her suburban parents... Walter writes powerfully in the book's conclusion about the current challenges facing refugees to the UK
Catherine Taylor, Financial Times
Truly fascinating... A powerful reminder that our actions really do matter
Lucy Atkins, Sunday Times
An eloquent, piercing, gloriously humane memoir on the wonders of life in the most difficult of moments. It touched me very much.
Philippe Sands
Heartfelt and upfront... A grieving daughter rediscovers her mother's political past
Blake Morrison, Guardian
Walter writes brilliantly about how little a child knows about their parents, and uncovers Ruth's life as the daughter of Jews who fled persecution, and became a Sixties' activist. This is unflinchingly honest: the best book I have read this year
The Tablet
In this succinct and deeply serious memoir, Natasha relives the days and weeks after her mother's death... the book demonstrates fascinatingly is how children react against their parents
Ysenda Maxtone Graham, Daily Mail
In the course of deeply pondering her mother's legacy, Walter does indeed find meaning, though it's bitter and hard won... The light may well be fading, she concedes; the challenge is to make your stand all the same