CS Richardson – The End of the Alphabet

Portobello Books 2009

More years ago than I would have liked, we visited King Island. As we arrived at the yurt where we were staying for the week, with the sparkling silver sea as our backdrop and the sun streaming through the picture windows, I remember thinking, ‘I wonder when I can come back.’

I felt the same way when I finished reading The End of the Alphabet. This is an exquisite book. I somehow missed it when it came out in 2009 and became an instant best seller, winning its author the Commonwealth Prize. In fact, I came upon it via the second of Richardson’s novels, The Emperor of Paris, with which I also fell instantly in love.

The End of the Alphabet is on one level the story of Ambrose Zephyr and his wife, Zappora Ashkenazi, as they negotiate the final month of his life following a diagnosis of fatal illness. It is a love story of course and a moral tale about the nature of dying. The author clearly understands about love.

Another critic described Richardson’s work as ‘elegant, spare and beautifully written’ (Washington Post). I concur and reiterate what others have said – it moved me deeply and I know it will stay with me, as has The Emperor. I hope that CS Richardson will write another soon.