Name: Decca Aitkenhead
Book: All At Sea
What’s it about?
On a hot still morning on a beautiful beach in Jamaica, Decca Aitkenhead’s life changed for ever. Her four-year-old boy was paddling peacefully at the water’s edge when a wave pulled him out to sea. Her partner, Tony, swam out and saved their son’s life – then drowned before her eyes.
When Decca and Tony first met a decade earlier, they became the most improbable couple in London. She was an award-winning Guardian journalist, famous for interviewing leading politicians. He was a dreadlocked criminal with a history of drug-dealing and violence. No one thought the romance would last, but it did. Until the tide swept Tony away, plunging Decca into the dark chasm of random tragedy.
Exploring race and redemption, privilege and prejudice, All At Sea is a remarkable story of love and loss, of how one couple changed each other’s lives and of what a sudden death can do to the people who survive.
What others are saying:
‘If you buy just one book this year, make it this one. I have never read anything like it and wished it would never end’ Jennifer Saunders
‘A story of absolute heartbreak, but also a story of unbelievable courage’ Davina McCall
‘A beautiful and painful guidebook through the taboo subject of death. Decca made me miss someone I’ve never met and, for today at least, savour those I love’ Russell Brand
‘A remarkable story of sudden tragedy and grief, of love and resilience’ Arianna Huffington
What she’s reading: The People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry, and One Of Us by Asne Seirestad. Neither very cheering, both breathtakingly brilliant.
What she’s listening to: Radio 4, when her sons are at school or in bed. When they’re not, it’s Don McLean’s American Pie. On a loop. The song is their latest discovery, and the lyrics a source of inexhaustible intrigue.
What she’s watching: War and Peace, and Celebrity Big Brother. Which sounds like a joke, but really isn’t. The two are less dissimilar than one might have imagined.
Favourite word(s): Fatuous, demonstrably.
Favourite song: I’m In A Dancing Mood by Delroy Wilson
Your hero – literary or otherwise: Hero is a concept she has never quite been able to grasp.
The book she wishes she’d written: Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca
Writing ritual: Tidy desk, messy hair, limitless diet coke.
Best advice ever received: “Don’t just do something. Stand there.”
If she could change one thing about the world: Only one? Where would be the point?
Think of something beautiful: The view from Eggy’s bar in Treasure Beach, Jamaica.
The most memorable sentence she’s ever read: The first to come to mind is Russell Brand’s description of an inexplicably popular club night in London called School Disco, “in which grown women cavort in schoolgirl uniforms and baffled paedophiles puzzle over boundaries.” It is all in the verb “puzzle”.
If she wasn’t writing: She would be trying to talk Radio 4 into letting her have a go at broadcasting.
Who would play the main characters in a film adaptation of All At Sea? Idris Elba and Cate Blanchett.
Best place to write? Anywhere her children cannot find, and wifi cannot reach.