*WINNER OF THE PEN ACKERLEY PRIZE 2018*
My younger brother’s name is Nicholas Beard. He was nine years old, and I was with him in the water when he drowned.
Life changes in an instant.
On a family holiday in Cornwall in 1978, Richard and Nicholas are in the sea, jumping the waves. Suddenly and inexplicably Nicholas is out of his depth and then, shockingly, so is Richard. Only one of the brothers returns to the shore.
Richard does not attend Nicholas’s funeral and afterwards the family return to Cornwall to continue the holiday. Soon they stop speaking of that day at the beach altogether. Years later, haunted by grief, Richard sets out to piece together the story. Who was Nicholas? What really happened that day? And why did the family never speak of it again?
SHORTLISTED FOR THE RATHBONES FOLIO PRIZE 2018
SHORTLISTED FOR THE JAMES TAIT BLACK PRIZE 2018
‘This captivating book, both heart-rending and jaw-dropping, unfolds like a detective story’ Daily Mail
‘A memoir of real truth and heartbreaking emotional heft’ Sunday Times
Beard's stunning memoir tells the tragic story of his family's 1978 vacation and the subsequent 40 years he spent forgetting it. His memory from the day is fuzzy: he was 11 and his little brother, Nicky, was nine when they decided to play in the waves one last time before heading back to the cottage their family was renting in Cornwall, England. Nicholas drowned, and the rest is blank. His family never spoke about what happened which he calls "an epic level of denial." Now a novelist with kids of his own, Beard (Lazarus Is Dead) attempts to piece together what happened that day and hunt down all the artifacts left of his younger brother's short life. Beard travels across England, visiting the important places from Nicky's life and interviewing everyone who knew him family members, school officials, the man who pulled him out of the water that terrible day. But the memories are fuzzy and, after years of silence, some have vanished entirely. By collecting all of Nicky's school records, photographs, clothing, and stories, Beard reimagines the brother he lost. His beautifully written story is heartbreaking and unforgettable as he struggles with the grief he chose to forget and, now, attempts to remember again.