Marianne Brooker

Longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Non-Fiction 2024
French paperback with flaps, 200 pages
Published 28 February 2024

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What makes a good death? A good daughter? In 2009, with her forties and a harsh wave of austerity on the horizon, Marianne Brooker’s mother was diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis. She made a workshop of herself and her surroundings, combining creativity and activism in inventive ways. But over time, her ability to work, to move and to live without pain diminished drastically. Determined to die in her own home, on her own terms, she stopped eating and drinking in 2019. In Intervals, Brooker reckons with heartbreak, weaving her first and final memories with a study of doulas, living wills and the precarious economics of social, hospice and funeral care. Blending memoir, polemic and feminist philosophy, Brooker joins writers such as Anne Boyer, Maggie Nelson, Donald Winnicott and Lola Olufemi to raise essential questions about choice and interdependence and, ultimately, to imagine care otherwise.

Intervals is an exceptional book, for which every deserved superlative seems cliched, in part because the language of illness, death and bereavement often feels too hollowed out by use to accommodate the magnitude of those experiences.… [W]ritten with such clarity and precision…  this angry, loving, sorrowing and profound book is a magnificent starting point for [a] radical imaginative act.’
Alex Clark, Observer

‘Brooker debuts with a searing meditation on end-of-life care that traces her mother’s primary progressive multiple sclerosis from her diagnosis in 2009 to her death 10 years later…. She also constructs an indelible portrait of her tenacious mother, who died after she voluntarily stopped eating and drinking. With breathtaking precision and piercing moral clarity, Brooker delivers a brilliant blend of memoir and cultural critique that’s likely to reshape readers’ ideas about death and dying.’
— Publisher’s Weekly, starred review

Intervals is an endlessly moving and profoundly generous telling of what it means to give and receive care. Stunning in its intimacy and expansive in its political purpose, Brooker’s writing invites us to think deeply about the relationship between giving care and honouring life. Through visceral, tactile details of creating, working, making and tending, Brooker brings us into the spaces where caring happens, where life and its endings happen. A rare, revelatory, and truly radical book.’
— Elinor Cleghorn, author of Unwell Women

‘In this compelling and beautifully written book Marianne Brooker anatomizes the rights of the dying and the failures of the state to support rather than penalize those living with disability. Intervals is simultaneously a memoir of individual experience and a powerful reflection on the nature of home, care, death and love that deserves to be read and heard by the widest possible audience.’
— Daisy Hay, author of Dinner with Joseph Johnson 

‘I am now both mad and grateful for this formidable work of thought, which subtly yet profoundly shifts the terms of discussion on dying. What kind of world have we built for one another, asks Marianne Brooker, where many must struggle to be present for their own deaths? The many who live on borrowed time, in borrowed homes, dispossessed by a society that dangles rights without furnishing means? From nothing less than heartbreak, Brooker has germinated an exquisite and extraordinary reckoning, bringing a sorely needed focus on the substance of life to questions of a socially just death.’
— Amber Husain, author of Meat Love

‘I marvelled at Marianne Brooker’s Intervals. Out of her mother’s death, she weaves a short, tender, angry yet clear-eyed book about the nature of love, and what it requires of us all if we’re doing it right.’
— Joanna Biggs, author of A Life of One’s Own

‘Both an elegy and an account of interrupted time, in this generous book Marianne Brooker draws together threads of memoir, social history and literature to tell a lyrical, ethical, and above all political story of pain, care, and maternal connection. Deftly, movingly, Brooker reminds us of the interdependence at the heart of all our lives, that we inherit more than biological matter, and that the dying mourn the living, too.’
— Helen Charman, author of Mother State

Intervals is an extraordinary essay that is both unflinchingly intimate and radically political. It is the simple account of a daughter losing her mother too soon. It is also an examination of class, money and structural power. Brooker’s striking achievement is to never be prescriptive while, at the same time, never holding back from the force of her argument. It is, I suppose, an elegy. And like the best of elegies, and the bond it describes – it is charged with life.’
— Nathan Filer, author of The Shock of the Fall

‘A beautifully written portrayal of caring and end-of-life decisions – exquisitely sensitive, passionate and angry in its railing against our broken social care system.’
— Sam Mills, author of The Fragments of my Father

‘Brooker splices her lucid narrative with quotes from other writers, including Maggie Nelson, DW Winnicott, Annie Ernaux and Lola Olufemi, broadening her story from an account of what happened in a small, rented house in Devon to one that deserves to make everyone, everywhere, rethink end-of-life care…. [T]his is a brave, generous book that begs to be widely read. Brooker captures the messy reality of a difficult death with pathos and plenty of wry asides.’
Susie Mesure, Prospect

Intervals is a philosophical rumination on the politics of death and dying. As she tracks her mother’s illness, Brooker unpacks the socio-economic environment she is dying in – austerity and cuts to welfare support, the surging costs of funerals, the lack of access to assisted dying. Situating her memoir in a political sphere, Brooker offers the reader a new or rarely discussed perspective on death as a socio-political issue, building on a body of evidence … which she knits together with her own narrative, in prose that is engaging yet lyrical.’
— Beatrice Tridimas, Review 31

Marianne Brooker is based in Bristol, where she works for a charity campaigning on climate and social justice. She has a PhD from Birkbeck and a background in arts research and teaching. She won the 2022 Fitzcarraldo Essay Prize for Intervals, her first book.