Picardie, Ruth 1964-1997

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PICARDIE, Ruth 1964-1997

PERSONAL:

Born May 1, 1964; died of cancer, September 22, 1997, in London, England; married Matt Seaton; children: Joe, Lola. Education: Attended Cambridge University.

CAREER:

Journalist and editor.

AWARDS, HONORS:

What the Papers Say Award for lifetime achievement, 1998.

WRITINGS:

Before I Say Goodbye: Recollections and Observations from One Woman's Final Year, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2000.

Contributor to periodicals such as Mirabella, Vogue, Manchester Guardian, the New Statesman and Society, and the Independent.

SIDELIGHTS:

Born in 1964, journalist Ruth Picardie attended Cambridge University, where she met her husband, Matt Seaton. She spent her early career working for a series of magazines, starting as a film trade journalist for Mirabella and moving on to Vogue and the women's pages of the Manchester Guardian. Picardie's final achievement was a series of columns written for the Independent in which she chronicled the last year of her life.

Originally misdiagnosed, by the time Picardie learned she had breast cancer, the disease was in the advanced stage. She used her columns, called "marvelously witty, funny, and disarmingly frank" by Los Angeles Times reviewer Jane E. Allen, as a way to cope with her illness. Not afraid of strange or experimental treatments, she tried such alternative therapies as shark cartilage, linseed capsules, and homeopathy, all of it fodder for her writing. In tune with her body, she wrote down her feelings, eliciting both sympathy and empathy from her readers.

Picardie tended to understand before her doctors when she was taking a turn for the worse. What they diagnosed as a "neurological condition," she suspected was brain cancer, and she also intuitively knew when the cancer spread to her bones. At her death, Picardie was suffering from breast, bone, lung, liver, and brain cancer. Despite this, she refused to succumb to self-pity and remained an inspiration to her readership until she passed away.

Before I Say Goodbye: Recollections and Observations from One Woman's Final Year collects Picardie's columns, as well as correspondence with her readers, e-mails exchanged with friends and family, and letters she wrote to her twins, Joe and Lola, who where just two years old when Picardie died. Her husband, Matt Seaton, supplied an afterword in which he explains how her disease affected their marriage. Times Literary Supplement contributor Mary Margaret McCabe noted, "Seaton admits to the anger and the distance which the progress of the cancer caused between them, and acknowledges that the publication of the book provides him with the therapy he needs after her death." McCabe went on to say, "The very vigor of Picardie's words invites both admiration and tears." Bette-Lee Fox of Library Journal remarked, "Picardie's dry humor and pointed barbs should give pause to others facing terminal illness." Publishers Weekly contributors Mark Rotella, Charlotte Abbott, and Sarah F. Gold observed, "Her writing reveals a woman who … remains open to life's joys and observes what is happening around her with clear eyes."

Following Picardie's death, her friend Kate Mosse penned her obituary for the Guardian. In it, she speaks not only of Picardie's strength in the face of her illness, but of the person she was in life: a woman who loved fancy gowns as well as ice cream and boxes of chocolate, who worked at her career and wanted to write books. Mosse commented, "From the moment she knew there was no going back, she turned to face death straight in the face, though she never accepted it as inevitable."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Picardie, Ruth, Before I Say Goodbye: Recollections and Observations from One Woman's Final Year, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2000.

PERIODICALS

Guardian (Manchester, England), March 2, 1998, Joan Smith, "A Prize Bunch: Joan Smith on a Boys' Own Press Awards Ceremony Where Only One Woman Was Honored," section O, p. 10; May 4, 1998, Matt Seaton, "First Person: Learning to Play Solo," section T, p. 8.

Library Journal, June 1, 2000, Bette-Lee Fox, review of Before I Say Goodbye, p. 184.

Los Angeles Times, October 23, 2000, Jane E. Allen, "Say 'Say Aaah:' Media Mix: Humorous and Heartfelt Moments at the End of a Life," section S, p. 2.

Publishers Weekly, July 24, 2000, Mark Rotella, Charlotte Abbott, Sarah F. Gold, review of Before I Say Goodbye, p. 78.

Sunday Times (London, England), June 21, 1998, review of Before I Say Goodbye, p. 7.

Times Literary Supplement, November 6, 1998, Mary Margaret McCabe, "Laughing in Its Face," review of Before I Say Goodbye.

OBITUARIES:

PERIODICALS

Guardian, September 23, 1997, Kate Mosse, "Obituary: Ruth Picardie: The Art of Dying with Dignity," section O, p. 16.*

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