“No matter what age we are, the day will come when we find ourselves orphaned.”
The lonely process of bereavement is not only one of grieving but, for all of us, it brings a chaotic jumble of emotions that range from anger, oppressive and infinite pain to revulsion, remorse and a strange sense of freedom. Having to empty our parents’ house intensifies these feelings: each object is redolent with symbolism, stirring memories of our parents’ past and also of our own childhood.
For Lydia it was a difficult task. Both her parents had narrowly escaped the Holocaust – her father, still a student, survived the Second World War in a Nazi labour camp, while her mother, a feisty member of the French Resistance, was one of the few to return to Auschwitz. But they never communicated these experience to their daughter, who grew up trapped in their stifling silence. Only after their deaths, and with emptying their house did Lydia discover the truth about her extended family and come to terms with her mother’s difficult character.
In writing this book, both poignant and funny, and one in which we can all recognise our own reactions, Lydia Flem brings to life a loving portrait of her parents.
This taboo-breaking book, which expresses universal truths about bereavement, will deepen our understanding of our reactions to the deaths of those who gave us life.
“Flem writes with mighty simplicity and a wonderful eye for all the venal, trivial thoughts that torment a person at such a time… This is a painful book, but it is also invigorating and superbly intelligent… Flem’s meditation deserves to take its place in that select library, alongside Tennyson’s In Memoriam and CS Lewis’s A Grief Observed.”
“In the process of clearing the house Lydia… gets to know her mother more truly after death… Maybe the loss of parents turns us all not only into orphans but detectives trying to find those missing persons who we knew so well but never completely.”
“Lydia Flem has used the process of clearing out her parents’ home after her mother’s death to explore her grief… After they were both dead, Flem finally found herself in a position to discover what they really thought and felt.”
“In this painful but poignant and taboo-breaking book Flem… explores the process of bereavement and the curious mix of emotions it brings – from anger and remorse to a strange sense of freedom.”
“Elegant, poignant and profoundly honest, The Final Reminder is a rumination on ageing, bereavement, solitude and ancestry… a moving and consoling meditation relevant to anyone who has ever contemplated loss – and what it really means to grow up.”
‘Times Literary Supplement’
“Another sort of glimpse into the soul is provided in ‘The Final Reminder’… What Flem is attempting in the book, however tentatively, is to fit that history, both long-known and newly discovered, into her understanding of her own life story”.
“An eloquent, poignant and profoundly honest rumination on bereavement, solitude and the past.”
‘French Book News’, Summer 2007