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After the End - July book club

(66 Posts)
SarahGransnet (GNHQ) Fri 19-Jul-19 12:42:10

Winners of After the End should have received their copies now. And here's the place to leave your thoughts and questions for the author, Clare Mackintosh.

gardener Sun 28-Jul-19 17:02:41

Thank you for allowing me to read your book Clare.
I agree with all the previous comments ...that this is such an emotional read that no-one could fail to be moved by it.
Unusual for a book to have two endings...
Which ending do you think is the most likely to have happened ?
Which ending do you prefer ?
I have read that writing the book has helped you to cope with the grief of losing your own child.
Has your husband read it ?
Did it help him in the same way ?
I hope you don't object to my asking these questions.
I was so pleased to hear that you now have two more children and have settled in Wales.
The Welsh language looks very difficult...
Has it been easy for all of you to learn the language ?
I have enjoyed all your other books and look forward to the next one. Thank you again.

Mazamet07 Mon 29-Jul-19 09:20:40

I have to be honest and say that I wasn't keen on starting this book, expecting overly emotional and run-of-the-mill themes. However I thoroughly enjoyed it and would like to commend the author on her take of such a poignant storyline; the book was written in such a heartfelt and accessible way. The first half I felt was the stronger though: clearly written, engrossing, relatable and meaningful. I did get rather lost in the second part of the book as dates, characters and events seemed to intermingle, meaning some frustrating re-reading for me. I do understand the author's intention, contrasting two possible court outcomes, because of course, once a decision is taken, you never get to know the consequences of the 'what if...' I hope that writing this book was cathartic and helped to soothe, even if only a little, the heartache the author herself has been through.

NonnaW Tue 30-Jul-19 15:04:29

A thought-provoking book. Like others, I found the first half engrossing but struggled somewhat with the double thread of the second half. In fact, I found I was disappointed by the ending; it did not ring true to me.

I understand that the author has had a similar heartbreaking experience.

We none of us know how we would react in similar circumstances. I personally feel I would think as Pip did, but who knows how you would feel if it was your own beloved child?

My only question to the author would be why she chose the ending she did, when the two strands up till then were indicating totally different outcome?

glammanana Mon 05-Aug-19 11:19:10

Thank you so much for my copy,I have had to take my time reading it as I had a recent eye op and was struggling.
What an unputdownable book once I got into it.
Lets hope the author has found peace going down the route she choose everyone has a different opinion obviously and I am not sure how I would react.
How do you go about deciding what topic to write about is it very difficult or do you look for personal knowledge topics.

EastEndGranny Mon 05-Aug-19 17:59:40

Unfortunately I was away till almost the end of July and so didn’t pick up my copy till late and have still not finished ‘ After the End’ but just wanted to say thank you for my copy. This is not the sort of book I would normally have picked up and found the early part difficult to read. However, I am enjoying the second part and find it quite gripping. Should finish soon.

CariGransnet (GNHQ) Tue 13-Aug-19 16:32:27

We will be sending the questions over to Claire in the next few days, so if you won a copy of the book, do add yours here. Many thanks

GrannyBear Tue 13-Aug-19 17:33:58

I didn’t win a copy of ‘After the End’ but another Gransnetter and I exchange books if one or other of us is successful in the monthly draw!

Like other Gransnetters, I read this book in a couple of days. I quickly became engrossed in the lives of the central characters Pip, Max and their young, desperately ill, son Dylan. They were portrayed with heart-breaking realism and I did feel drawn into life in the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).

In my opinion, the book was very cleverly constructed. The first 25 chapters - ‘BEFORE’ - highlight the strength of the relationship between Pip and Max, the deterioration in Dylan’s condition and the dedication of the PICU staff. Events are told in a straightforwardly and in chronological order. This section culminates in the Court Case held to determine Dylan’s future treatment, as his parents disagree on what course of action would be in Dylan’s best interest.

The outcome of the Court Case is never disclosed, rather the second part of the book - ‘AFTER’ - moves between two different scenarios. In one, the outcome of the Court Case is that there should be no further medical intervention to prolong Dylan’s life (in line with Pip’s belief that Dylan should be allowed to die), whereas in the other the Court decision is to allow Dylan to travel to US for proton beam treatment (in line with Max’s belief that while there is any possibility that any treatment will prolong Dylan’s life, it should be explored).

Chapters alternately progress the story from Pip’s and Max’s points of view, Dylan has no further treatment and Dylan travels to US respectively. The timelines are not chronological and the dialogue twists and turns between present events and those in the past which still bear influence. I found this style of writing quite fascinating and, although requiring concentration on whose story was being played out and when, I found this added to, rather than distracted from, the story.

Undoubtedly, this was a challenging book for Clare Mackintosh to write, just as it was at times challenging to read. However, I feel the outcome is an important and successful book which will stay with me for some considerable time.

I would like to ask Clare how important she thought it was to give one of the PICU doctors, Leila, a significant role not only in the ‘BEFORE’ section of the book, but also in the aftermath of the Court decision.

EastEndGranny Wed 14-Aug-19 11:26:58

I feel awful about this but I couldn’t read all of the first part. I not quite sure why ..... I think in a way I felt a voyeur on Pip and Max’s grief. But I didn’t skip much and picked it up when it was clear Max and Pip didn’t agree on treatment for Dylan. Ugh the characters came across really well. I enjoy books that move about; it keeps me on my toes. Unlike many I probably preferred the second part although wasn’t too sure about the ending. My question is “Clare, did you find one strand easier to write than the other?”

notreallyagran Wed 14-Aug-19 11:41:11

Although I was apprehensive about reading this book, fearing that it might be too upsetting, I'm glad that I did finally pick it up. I found myself solidly behind Pip and Leila, wavering when they did, but ultimately feeling that they knew what was best for Dylan. Did you intend to sway your readers that way, Clare?

Seaside2013 Wed 14-Aug-19 14:34:17

A thought provoking read, around a very difficult subject, clearly written from the standpoint of experience. Having a critically ill child makes you fight every decision, because you feel that what is happening should not be happening. The young are supposed to be exploring the world, having adventures, looking forward having "firsts" instead you can only see what will not happen, no first day at school, no first love, graduations, walking a beloved daughter down the aisle, watching that person develop and perhaps create a future generation. My question to Clare is did the writing prove cathartic, did having a similar experience mean it was easier to write about and come to terms with what you had experienced. The subject matter will create much discussion at book group

DorisD Wed 14-Aug-19 15:33:52

Thank you for the book. I found it a very difficult read with the subject matter. Pip and Mat had a very difficult decision to make. The first part of the book was gripping but the second part lost its way in my opinion. I did like the consultant character. She seemed very 'human'.
My question to the author is 'Why did you go back and forth in the second part?'

Pollyanna2 Thu 15-Aug-19 09:26:41

Pip says 'Someone threw a grenade into our lives', and of course such is life... A heartbreaking scenario unfolds - and obviously written from the heart. Somehow the main characters get through it and survive, although cannot be the same people afterwards. Thank you Clare for being so brave in delving into this most difficult subject, especially given your own tragic experiences. I once asked my late father his advice about something, and he said that any decision I made could be the right one... so true. I'd like to ask Clare if she found writing this book therapeutic for her.

Pollyanna2 Thu 15-Aug-19 09:44:10

Oh - also, like others have said, I did find the 2nd half of the book rather difficult to follow at times. I had to keep looking back to check which storyline I was following. I found this distracted slightly from the impact of the content. Why did you decide to do it that way Clare?

winifred01 Sat 17-Aug-19 15:10:57

Thank you for the book. I found it difficult to read, My granddaughter died when she was young having spent years requiring 24 hour care, knowing she would never live a normal life. The descriptions of care were spot on,Did Clare keep a journal or how was she able to recall such detail?
Happy to say my daughter and her husband have another child who has become a special needs teacher.

labradorlinda33 Sun 18-Aug-19 10:33:22

It was a lovely surprise to receive a copy of your book Clare.
It took me a long time to read this book, I kept picking it up, reading a few pages and then I'd put it down. It stirred up a lot of emotions in me and I hope my family and myself never have to go through a similar experience.

My question...Do you have plans to write another book? If so, will the subject be personal again?

Thank you.

avery64 Sun 18-Aug-19 19:29:04

As with all Clare's books that I have read she has me hooked in the first few pages. I'm intrigued to know the writing process. Does she start at the beginning, get to the end and then tweak here and there or is the beginning rewritten in a big way to ensnare her readers. She is an expert at doing this!

SarahGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 22-Aug-19 16:47:35

Thanks for all of your comments and questions. We've now passed these over to Clare and we'll return with the answers as soon as we have them. smile

ClareMackintoshAuthor Wed 11-Sep-19 16:50:24


My question to Claire is:- It was incredibly brave of you to write this book and to use some of your own experiences in doing so. I have only had to make such decisions about much loved family pets. Was your use of the Robert Frost poem and the two paths with a similar ending, intentional from the beginning or developed as the story evolved?

Hi @Crocky, thanks for your question. The Road Not Taken has been one of my favourite poems for many years, and when my son was ill it was something I kept coming back to. I have wanted to write this story for many years, and always with the two-path structure – it was something I felt very strongly about.

ClareMackintoshAuthor Wed 11-Sep-19 16:51:12


I have just started reading your book, what a true to life book in my mind. Parents having to make a difficult decision regarding a small child. Do you ever suffer with writers block as so many people do that you hear about.

Never say never! In general I try to approach my writing just as I approached my work as a police officer. Some days I wanted to be at work, some days I didn’t... but I worked just as hard regardless. I show up, I write words, and sometimes those words are harder to find than others.

ClareMackintoshAuthor Wed 11-Sep-19 16:51:54


After the End is a book which will stay with me for a long time !! I finished it with tears rolling down my face but with also a positive feeling inside
The book explores the realities of having to make a life changing decision As individuals we all have our own views but if these differ from others involved it makes that decision even more difficult. I am so glad to have read this emotion filled book, which has left an imprint on my heart. Everyone who reads this book will appreciate and understand life just a little more. It is evident this novel has been written from the heart and I feel that is why it is so special. Brilliant emotive writing and definitely one of my top reads recently .

My question to Clare is was this a difficult book to write? And did it bring back emotional memories or was it helpful to you personally?

I’m touched to hear that my book had such an emotional response, @Rachel1234. Yes, it was hard to write, but also incredibly cathartic. I had to revisit some painful memories I’ve kept locked away for a long time, and I think it was an important part of my grieving process.

ClareMackintoshAuthor Wed 11-Sep-19 16:52:39


Thanks again for the book which I may not have read otherwise. It was a compelling read. I know the hospital well and had friends in a similar dilemma.
I was intrigued by the dual tread of the two possible scenarios which often intertwined and seemed more overlapping than parallel.
My question is did you ever worry about being so open, and how much of the story was similar to your own? I ask this respectfully.

That’s a really interesting question @LullyDully. After the End has its roots in a very personal story of mine, but it is nevertheless pure fiction. I’m not Pip and my husband isn’t Max, and we dealt with our son’s illness very differently. So with that in mind it didn’t feel at all exposing, although when I went on tour to promote the book I gave some very personal interviews, which I found tough at times.

ClareMackintoshAuthor Wed 11-Sep-19 16:53:14


A question – Pip has the courage to move on with her life. Do you think that, in some way, she was lucky to be able to do that, instead of facing endurance and compromise?

I think everyone has the option of moving on, whether practically or emotionally. Max takes longer to do that, but I think that’s less about the choice he made, and more about the sort of person he is.

ClareMackintoshAuthor Wed 11-Sep-19 16:54:01


This must have been a very difficult book to write for Clare. I found it a difficult book to read, not only for the subject matter but because it wasn’t easy to keep track of the first chapters, filling in the background. The book is written in two parts ‘Before’ and ‘After’...

My question for Clare is: Why didn’t you write the story in chronological order?

It is written chronologically – the story never jumps back in time. The second half splits into two possible outcomes, but they both follow their own forward-moving timeline.

ClareMackintoshAuthor Wed 11-Sep-19 16:59:07


I'd like to ask Claire which she thinks most important in her writing, character or plot?

Can I have all of them, @trisher?! A good book has well-drawn characters, a compelling plot, and beautiful writing, and I aspire to all three in my novels. If you really pressed me, I’d say characters. You can have the most exciting plot in the world, but if you don’t care about the characters there’s no reason to turn the page.

ClareMackintoshAuthor Wed 11-Sep-19 17:00:24


My question is: why did you decide to opt for alternative endings and can you think of any advantages following only one decision might have had?

Following only one decision would have meant giving implicit criticism to the other option, and that was something I was adamant I didn’t want to do. Moreover, I specifically wanted to show that, whatever path you take in life, there are highs and lows. What matters isn’t the choice you make, but how you deal with it. Can I think of any advantages of just writing one decision? Not really – it would have been a different book entirely.