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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.

ClareMackintoshAuthor Wed 11-Sep-19 17:01:05


I found this a difficult book to read and often wondered if I could continue. So pleased I did even with tears running down my cheeks. So well written, I cared about all of the characters.
The second part was very different but I liked the way it made me think and try to decide which I thought would have been the right decision. I couldn't.
My questions for Clare are did you find it difficult to write the 2 different paths in the second part and did you write them separately and then merge them together or did you write them as they appear in the book?
Thank you for a very emotional read.

Thank you @GrandmaEvie. No, the second half was easier to write than the first, because the worst had already happened. The second half is about moving forward – it’s full of hope and possibility. As you suggest, I wrote the two timelines separately, then wove them together in a way thatwould give the most suspense and emotion for the reader.

ClareMackintoshAuthor Wed 11-Sep-19 17:03:47


Claire did it take a lot of courage to write about your personal experience and has it helped being able to share your experience with others?


Thought it was a brave decision of the author to revisit such a personal story. Would like to ask her if it helped exorcise the demons of such a loss?


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

Thanks @mopsx4, @purpledaffodil and @seaside2013. It was a big decision to write this book, but I loved every second of it. Going on tour and talking about my own experiences was really hard, but definitely cathartic. I think there is a huge stigma around child bereveament and end-of-life care, and it’s important that we have conversations about thesetough topics.

ClareMackintoshAuthor Wed 11-Sep-19 17:04:27


I enjoyed the book but as others have said the second part took a bit of concentration. I liked the idea of the different outcomes and the final twist.
My question is did you ever intend to have a verdict but found it too hard to write?

The truth is that I didn’t know how the book was going to end. For a long time I expected to return to the court room at the end of the story, and for the judge to deliver a verdict. When I got to that point, I realised that the verdict didn’t matter – the story isn’t about who is right or wrong, but about how two people deal with the choices they’ve made.

ClareMackintoshAuthor Wed 11-Sep-19 17:05:25


My question for Clare is why she chose to structure it this way and not write the two alternative paths as separate/discreet parts or at least have longer segments for each timeline?

That’s an interesting one, @lolarabbit. It would certainly have been easier for readers to follow, if I’d presented (for example) Pip’s timeline as ‘part two’ and Max’s as ‘part three’. And it would have been much easier to write! Weaving them together, though, forces the reader to compare the two possible outcomes, and to consider how Max and Pip are handling things. It’s also representative of how closely knit Max and Pip are, even after they separate: their lives are inextricably bound together, because of Dylan and because of their shared experiences.

ClareMackintoshAuthor Wed 11-Sep-19 17:07:03


My question is did Clare talk to her son’s doctors as in the book because she has portrayed the doctor’s position so well.

I didn’t talk to my son’s doctors about writing this book, although of course I talked to them about my son’s care when we were in ICU. I worked with a PICU nurse, though, who was incredibly helpful in making sure After the End was accurate.

ClareMackintoshAuthor Wed 11-Sep-19 17:08:00


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.

I don’t have a ‘best decision’, but I do have a favourite ending, and it’s Pip’s. That’s not to say I think she made the right choice, just that I am a hopeless romantic and think that she and Max are meant to be together. Writing the book was incredibly cathartic, albeit painful in parts. I don’t mind you asking lots of questions, @gardener, but I hope you’ll understand that I prefer only to answer those relating to my own experience. As for Wales – I love it here, and am still working on my Welsh!

ClareMackintoshAuthor Wed 11-Sep-19 17:08:44


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?

Ah, but you see, I don’t think they were! I think the connection between Pip and Max can be seen right the way through Pip’s story... they just took a while to find it again.

ClareMackintoshAuthor Wed 11-Sep-19 17:09:27


How do you go about deciding what topic to write about is it very difficult or do you look for personal knowledge topics.

Each book has been different, and I doubt I’ll ever write such a personal book as After the End again – in fact, my next one has no personal connection at all. I’m inspired by things I read, or see on the news; or by an overheard conversation in a café...

ClareMackintoshAuthor Wed 11-Sep-19 17:10:36


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.

Thank you so much @GrannyBear. Leila is such an important character, and one I researched so thoroughly (thanks to a wonderful Iranian teacher) that I ended up writing 20,000 words about her and Habibeh that I later had to cut! On a functional level, Leila’s role is important, because she narrates parts of the story we wouldn’t otherwise be able to see (because Pip and Max both tell their story in the first person, and so can only narrate what they can see). She also enables the reader to see Max and
Pip through an objective eye, which permitted me to explore the way we often hide our true feelings. For example, sometimes Max appears quite belligerent, almost aggressive, and this contrasts with the way he is when he’s on his own. Finally (as you can see, I’m quite passionate about Leila!) she represents all the foreign nurses and doctors who save so many lives, and work so hard for our NHS.

ClareMackintoshAuthor Wed 11-Sep-19 17:11:15


My question is “Clare, did you find one strand easier to write than the other?”

I think that Pip’s strand might have been a little easier, but really and genuinely I loved writing them both!

ClareMackintoshAuthor Wed 11-Sep-19 17:11:50


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?

I hoped that readers would feel, as I did, connected to each character, and able to understand why they made the choice they did. I’ve had messages from so many readers about how they would have acted, had they been in such a terrible situation, and they vary in which character they support.

ClareMackintoshAuthor Wed 11-Sep-19 17:12:29


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.

@winifred01, I’m so very sorry for you and your family. No, I didn’t keep a journal, but I can remember every square foot of intensive care, and every second I spent there.

ClareMackintoshAuthor Wed 11-Sep-19 17:12:58


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.

Writing is my job, and I have no plans to quit! I can’t tell you what my next book is about yet, but it doesn’t have its roots in a personal story this time.

ClareMackintoshAuthor Wed 11-Sep-19 17:13:43


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!

Thanks for your question @avery64. I write chronologically (except in the case of After the End, when I wrote Pip’s and Max’s sections in turn, then pieced them together) and I follow a plan I’ve spent several weeks mapping out. Then my editor reads it and I pretty much rip up everything I’ve done and start again! Funnily enough, the opening pages of my novels are about the only sections that rarely change – I seem to be able to nail them the first time. I am the least efficient writer I know – I throw away THOUSANDS of words with every draft, but it’s all with the same aim: to give you the best reading experience possible!

vickya Sat 05-Oct-19 18:07:44

I finally got a copy in September and so this is late.

I agree with many of the reviews here. I found the book readable and the first part went easily but the second part annoyed me as I don't like jumping from one person to another in time and with different realities. It is not the kind of book I'd normally choose to read.

As others have said I wondered how I would cope in this situation and what choices I'd make. I agree with the comments about the way the two people found partners and the endings were less than convincing. Life is not usually that neat.

A question I have is who looks after the child when Pip works now that Max is in the US? Is it her new husband?