In a varied career, the actress Kika Markham has regularly played real-life charcters, including, on television, Mrs Thatcher — piquant casting for a lifelong anti-capitalist — and memorably on the stage, in David Hare’s The Permanent Way. the novelist Nina Bawden, survivor of the Potters Bar rail crash in which her husband, Austen Kark died.
Markham’s memoir of her life over 30 years with her actor husband Corin Redgrave focuses on the traumatic period, following his recovery from prostate cancer, when in 2005 he suffered a heart attack, causing significant memory loss until his death five years later from an aneurysm on the brain. It somewhat recalls Bawden’s own exploration of grief in her book Dear Austen, in which she describes how — when the truth finally sinks in that the dead do not return — the bereaved initially feel ‘like suddenly being alone in a desert … with no future in sight. And no past either.’
The later years of her marriage had already brought Markham a devastating sense of loss, with Redgrave’s memory of their shared past so fragmented. In a touching diary entry Redgrave wrote:
I asked Kika what I was like before? ‘Have I been away?’ She replied: ‘Yes, in a way, because you’ve been so ill, but we’re going to put everything back together like a jigsaw puzzle.’
Her book itself is not unlike a jigsaw. Not intended as any kind of formal biography, it mingles reminiscence, extracts from diaries, medical reports, poems and short stories or vignettes, mostly by Markham (one of which, drawing on her involvement with François Truffaut, who directed her on screen in Les deux Anglaises et le continent, is especially acute).