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4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars

on 23 July 2017
A gift for a friend because I found the book very enlightening in the past.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 9 February 2004
I am not a believer in spiritualism but this book had been serialised in The Times and I found myself drawn into its story. Justine Picardie's sister Ruth died of breast cancer, causing Justine to be overwhelmed with grief. Her sister Ruth remained real to her, and Justine eventually began a journey into spiritualism to try to contact Ruth once more. The book provides a fascinating account of her journey, and one which does not require the reader to believe, mainly because Justine is far from convinced herself.
Perhaps the strangest parts of the book are where she encounters people who believe that by leaving a tape recorder running in a silent room, the voices of dead people can be heard when the tape is replayed repetively and at various speeds and volumes, or even in reverse. The adherents of this technique are convinced that they hear messages from the departed in these recordings but Ruth fails to hear the long sought-for messages.
Although the book is ostensibly about Ruth's search, a very powerful sub-text describes the impact of the immense grief she feels. Personally I find this more interesting than the more exotic accounts of the outer fringes of the occult. It is greatly moving to read how love between family members can be so intense that the whole life of the surviving relative can be dominated by a sense of loss.
I think this is a very valuable book and one I will be pleased to keep on my shelf and lend to others rather than passing straight to the Oxfam shop like so many recent purchases.
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on 26 May 2002
A very enjoyable read, but I suspect only for those who have ever lost someone in tragic circumstances. I found it quite moving in places, as it conjured up all old memories for me. She has a very easy writing style, too, and a lot of had me laughing out-loud in utter agreement and in empathy of her frustration.
A lot of it focusses on her attempt to contact her sister, who died of cancer, and of her studying of the afterlife. She has a subjective view on it all, which varies from convinced to "what a load of rubbish" which I could totally relate to. I personally found myself relating to most of what she said, and that alone made the book great to read.
This was the first book I had read on bereavement and grief, but it now won't be the last.
Try it.
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on 16 June 2002
Although it has been said that this book would mainly appeal to those who have suffered bereavement, I would also recommend it to people (like me) who have never really experienced the death of someone close to them.
This is because it is written in such a way that you can relate to it no matter what your circumstances, it strikes a cord in anyone who is close to their families and have ever wondered if there was life after death.
Justine Picardie writes about her feelings and actions after the death of her younger sister Ruth and the pain she feels when she can't remember what Ruth's voice sounds like.The book chronicles her attempts to 'contact' Ruth and the very different views on how this is done.
It has humour as well as heart breaking honesty and has the ability to make you laugh, cry and open your mind to the possibilities of life and contact after death. Thought provokiing and very, very interesting.
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on 10 October 2001
"Raw, unassuaged grief seeps from every page of Justine Picardie's extraordinarily compelling book. It is her journal, kept for one year after the death of her sister, Ruth, four years ago (aged 33) from breast cancer.
An outpouring of loss, rage, regret and desolation, Picardie's journal will be instantly recognisable to all who have experienced the agony of bereavement.
At one point, she observes: 'I lost the map when Ruth died, and I still don't know where I'm going.' At another she tries to keep an open mind during a session at the Spiritualist Association in London, where a chirpy madium, Julie, tells a small audience: 'I'm just a telephone between you and your spirits...but I can hear them, see them, sometimes even smell them.'
Picardie has no positive sounding, sightings or smellings herself, but by the end of her book she is emerging from profound despair.
Perhaps she is very close at last to the belief that is encapsulated by the beautiful words of Thornton Wilder, as quoted by Tony Blair in New York: 'There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.'"
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 16 November 2007
Picardie's sister, Ruth, died of breast cancer. Her plight was documented in a series of articles she wrote about her illness which were published in a major newspaper up to the time of her death. This book charts Justine's very personal journey to try to come to terms with and understand what it means to lose her sister, and her efforts to grieve and to try and make contact with her beyond death. This might seem macabre or pointless, and maybe it is to some people, but the heart of this book is the message that there isn't one right way to bear the loss of someone who means everything to you, and that you have to do what you can to get through each day and bear the sadness. It's a rich and poignant book, which doesn't give any answers or suggest any theories or solutions. It is all the better for it in my opinion.
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on 5 January 2002
What a read! I suffered a sudden bereavement in 1998, when my partner was killed, aged 28. This book I felt found me! I experienced most of what Justine did, and searched through meduim after meduim for a glimmer of hope that Peter was here with me in spirit. I am a bereavement counsellor now, and would reccommend this book to some of my clients, it may normalise feelings and thoughts for them whilst they grieve. Excellent book!
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on 10 December 2012
This book is a recent example of a genre that dates back to the mid-Nineteenth century; the story of one person's search for evidence of Survival After Death. It's honest and well-written, and raises important issues for any Spiritual investigator.
The author is a successful journalist in her thirties, who is still devastated by the death of her sister three years before. Her grief is overwhelming and, in her case, time doesn't heal, and neither does Prozac. She has also, more recently, lost a close friend to suicide, and during the course of the book, her sister-in-law dies in an accident. Altogether she feels surrounded and beleaguered by Death, and decides to investigate Spirit Communication as a means of `bringing back' her sister.
She's from an overwhelmingly sceptical and Rationalist background, and was brought up on Freud, who casts his long and gloomy shadow over the whole book. No doubt this accounts for the importance she places on her dreams, which take up a sizeable part of the narrative. At every stage of her investigation she's surrounded by friends and relations delivering the usual, familiar put-downs and rubbishings of any psychic phenomena she encounters.
Nonetheless she's touchingly persistent in her attempts to get in touch with her sister, and you have to give her full-marks for honest effort. I counted at least seventeen different attempts at Communication using a wide variety of techniques, some more serious than others, and including some that I'd never recommend as a way of getting worthwhile evidence. For example, she seems particularly attracted to various forms of EVP and its derivatives. (Electronic Voice Phenomena describes the faint, anomalous voices which are sometimes found recorded on cassette tapes in response to spoken questions). This is a notoriously unreliable technique which, if it works at all, produces only tiny fragments of coherent speech.
However, she also has about seven conventional, one-to-one, sittings with different mediums, and of these, three produce what I would describe as excellent and evidential results. One of these, a telephone sitting with celebrity medium Rita Rogers, is stunningly good, producing wonderfully detailed information - more evidence in one sitting than I've ever had - and yet she seems strangely unengaged by it all. She's surprised and intrigued by the results, but does she really accept that it's all genuine? It's hard to tell.
She pokes gentle fun at some of the more eccentric Spiritualists she encounters, including a frightful American `past-life therapist' who would put any sensible person off the whole idea of Survival in two minutes flat, but in no way is the book an exercise in `debunking'. However, neither is it the story of someone discovering an important truth; like any good journalist, she seems determined to remain resolutely uncommitted.
Over the course of a year, as she constantly nags away at the problem, she begins to have conversations in her head with Ruth, the lost sister. At first this seems to be a literary device, for however heartfelt the book may be, Picardie remains a clever, professional writer throughout. However, as these conversations continue, they begin to show the tell-tale signs of being real clairvoyance; the voice doesn't say what the listener expects or wants to hear, there are physical sensations associated with the Communication, and so on.
The author doesn't seem to be aware of the fact, but it's long been known that the moment some people start seriously investigating this subject, they'll promptly develop a degree of genuine psychic ability. As if to confirm this, she attends a rather grim-sounding weekend mediumship course and, during an exercise in clairvoyance, delivers two highly accurate and evidential messages to the course tutor. However, even this rather remarkable achievement doesn't seem to trigger any great insights or emotional breakthroughs.
She's done, more or less, what I would advise any investigator to do, and she has actually obtained good evidence, but at no time does she weigh-up her evidence or come to any kind of judgement. She draws no conclusions. Perhaps the problem is that she's not simply looking for evidence of her sister's survival; she wants her sister back, in person, and won't settle for anything less. In many ways this is a desperately sad book.
Perhaps one could argue that, in the course of her search, she feels a bit too much and thinks a bit too little. But on the other hand, she's grieving, and this is how we are when we grieve, and a good proportion of the people who start to investigate Spirit Communication do so precisely because they're grieving. There's no easy answer to all this.
By the close of the book, however, it seems that she may, at last, have begun to move on. She speaks in terms of knowing that she will, one day, be reunited with her sister, so perhaps the exercise has achieved something. I hope so; she seems like a nice person.
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on 7 August 2007
Although i can understand some of the negative points of view about this book I think people have to understand where she is coming from. This book is basically about somebody trying to cope with the loss of an extremely close family member (something most of us can identify with). In it Picardie tries to find answers to the infernal question why? To do this she looks at some issues surrounding life after death, spirituality, and what its all about. After reading books by Picardie and her sister Ruth their relationship was an extremely close one and this book just highlights her way of coming to terms with her death. Everybody deals with things in different ways and we should never be critical of anyones actions, instead we should support them for their heartfelt honesty
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on 26 February 2013
I came to Justine Picardie through her biographies of Coco Chanel and Daphne du Maurier. When dealing with subjects whom she did not know personally Picardie's prose is light, graceful, and sensitive. In this book, however, a candid and brilliant memoir of the aftermath of her sister's death, her writing comes from somewhere deep and pure. This is a heartfelt and poignant exploration of loss and the way that we, as humans, respond to it. I found it at times almost unbearably sad, but in the end actually remarkably uplifting. Picardie is a fantastic writer and her unflinching honesty makes this book incredibly precious. So, so worth reading, for anybody, not just those who have suffered a loss.
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