MEMOIR AND MENTAL HEALTH: Nick Blackburn, Horatio Clare and Sam Mills

  • DATE

    24 February 2022

  • TIME

    6:30 pm to 8:30 pm

  • AGES

    All ages welcome

  • PRICE

    £3

Join us here at Blackwell’s Manchester on Thursday 24th February when Nick Blackburn, Horatio Clare and Sam Mills will be talking to author Jenn Ashworth (Notes Made While Falling, Ghosted) about their latest books THE REACTOR, HEAVY LIGHT and THE FRAGMENTS OF MY FATHER – three incredible memoirs which all explore themes of mental health, psychosis, grief and breakdown.

About the books:

Nick Blackburn – The Reactor

I tore the arse of my pyjamas one morning, about a year before he died, and my father sewed it up perfect in a few minutes, just like that. I was looking at them this morning actually, his line of white stitches. It’s beautiful really. They’ve held.

After the sudden death of his father, Nick Blackburn embarks on a singular, labyrinthine journey to understand his loss. How do you create an existence when all you can see is a void?

The Reactor is a memoir about absence and creative possibilities, assembled like the pieces of a puzzle. Through philosophy, music, fashion, psychology, art and film, Blackburn travels a vast panorama of ideas and characters to offer an entirely new exploration of grief. This is a book about looking for and finding chain reactions and human connection – a work of enduring fragmentary beauty.

Nick Blackburn is a therapist who specialises in LGBTQ+ issues and completed a PhD in English Literature at Cambridge (on the use of quotation marks in Renaissance drama).

Horatio Clare – Heavy Light

Heavy Light is the story of a breakdown: a journey through mania, psychosis and treatment in a psychiatric hospital, and onwards to release, recovery and healing.

After a lifetime of ups and downs, Horatio Clare was committed to hospital under Section 2 of the Mental Health Act.

From hypomania in the Alps, to a complete breakdown and a locked ward in Wakefield, this is a gripping account of how the mind loses touch with reality, how we fall apart and how we can be healed – or not – by treatment. A story of the wonder and intensity of the manic experience, as well as its peril and strangeness, it is shot through with the love, kindness, humour and care of those who deal with someone who becomes dangerously ill.

Partly a tribute to those who looked after Horatio, from family and friends to strangers and professionals, and partly an investigation into how we understand and treat acute crises of mental health, Heavy Light’s beauty, power and compassion illuminate a fundamental part of human experience. It asks urgent questions about mental health that affect each and every one of us.

Horatio Clare is the bestselling author of numerous books including the memoirs Running for the Hills and Truant and the travel books A Single Swallow, Down to the Sea in Ships, Orison for a Curlew, Icebreaker and The Light in the Dark. His books for children include Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot and Aubrey and the Terrible Ladybirds. Horatio’s essays and reviews appear on BBC radio and in the Financial Times, the Observer and the Spectator, among other publications. He lives with his family in West Yorkshire.

Sam Mills – The Fragments of My Father

My life had been suspended, as though I had inhaled and was still waiting to let out that gasp of breath. I set aside my dreams for a future time when life might be normal again. But that night, on my mother’s birthday, as I sat and watched the sky turn from blue to black, I wondered for the first time if it ever would …

There were holes in Sam Mills’s life when she was growing up – times when her dad was just absent, for reasons she didn’t understand. As she grew older, she began to make up stories about the periods when he wasn’t around: that he’d been abducted, spirited away and held captive by a mysterious tribe who lived at the bottom of the garden. The truth – that he suffers from a rare form of paranoid schizophrenia, and was hospitalised intermittently – slowly came into focus, and that focus became pin-sharp in 2012, when Sam’s mother died and Sam was left as his primary carer.

In this powerful, poignant memoir Sam triangulates her own experience with the stories of two other carers, one she admires and one, on some days, she fears she might become: Leonard Woolf, husband to Virginia and F Scott Fitzgerald, husband to Zelda, and a man whose personality made him ill-equipped – in a great many ways – to be a carer for his troubled wife.

A mesmerising blend of literary biography and memoir The Fragments of My Father is a compelling and moving account of what it means to be a carer.

Sam Mills is a novelist, essayist and publisher who divides her time between Manchester and Surrey. Her debut novel for adults, The Quiddity of Will Self, was described by The Sunday Times as ‘an ingenious, energetic read’ and by the Guardian as ‘extraordinary’. Her essay Chauvo-Feminism: On Sex, Power and #MeToo was released by The Indigo Press in 2021. She is also the co-editor of TRAUMA – a collection of essays on Art and Mental Health.

Jenn Ashworth was born in 1982 in Preston. She studied English at Cambridge and since then has gained an MA from Manchester University, trained as a librarian and run a prison library in Lancashire. She now lectures in Creative Writing at the University of Lancaster. She is the author of five novels including A Kind of Intimacy, Cold Light and Fell. Her lasted novel Ghosted: A Love Story has recently been shortlisted for The Portico Prize. She has also written a memoir, Notes Made While Falling. She lives in Lancaster with her husband, son and daughter.

Doors: 18.30, event starts: 18.45.

Books by all three authors will be available to purchase on the night and there will be a signing following the talk. If you would like a signed copy but cannot make it to the event, please contact us on 0161 274 3331 or manchester@blackwells.co.uk and we can arrange this for you. Covid-19 precautions will be adhered to in order to ensure the safety of of our attendees, authors and booksellers.