This is Moriera Marques’s first book; a slim volume with not a syllable wasted (London: & Other Stories, 2015. Translated by Julia Sanchez). Now and at the hour of our death comes from this award-winning journalist’s visits, over a period of five months in 2011, to northern Portugal, to an out of the way part of an already remote region known as Trás-os-Montes; in other words, over the hills and far away. She went there to observe the work of a team of healthcare professionals as they worked to bring palliative care to dying patients in that otherwise forgotten part of the country. The aim of the team was to help their patients live out the end of their lives in as much comfort and with as much dignity as possible; dying in company and at home.
Helen Macdonald has written a memoir of that depressing period after one comes out of shock from the loss of a father, when the feeling can be so overwhelming as to drive one into depression. Her chosen therapy was to set about training a goshawk. She had the background and experience of falconry but taking this task on was to halt her academic career, oblige her to leave her university accommodation, and more or less run out of money. H is for Hawk is the beautifully written account of her many trials and tribulations and ultimate success which carried off the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize for non-fiction.
This was a book which, curiously, I was very glad to read but gladder still to have read after I wrote my own novel Rembrandt Sings which is about art forgery and a few other things besides. If I had read the book first I would have been influenced by it, which is fine in a way, but the biggest tribute my own book has been paid is by one of the main characters in book ten who said my novel gave “a remarkable insight into the work of an art forger”. It seems I was getting it right as Provenance confirms.