Ruth Cracknell was born in Maitland, but lived most of her life in Sydney. She was educated at the North Sydney Girls' High School, and began her professional career at the age of twenty. She travelled to England in the fifties to further her career and worked with the BBC before family reasons caused her to return home in 1954. Her professional life from then on happily coincided with the rise of serious theatre in Australia. In theatre she was known for her interpretations of both classical and contemporary drama as well as her particular flair for comedy. She worked extensively in film, television and radio. Ruth passed away in 2002.
Many in the book trade will already be aware that Ruth Cracknell's memoir Journey from Venice is a very personal account of a longed-for holiday that turns into a nightmare when her beloved husband Eric falls ill in Venice, culminating in his medical evacuation to Sydney. Once back, his health continues to deteriorate and this powerful book concludes with his death, followed two months later by a simple ceremony in which Eric's ashes are interred. My simple summary does not do justice to the mesmerising power of Cracknell's prose, nor to her ability to depict in words the essence of an accumulation of heart-rending incidents and episodes. She takes us inside her own and Eric's minds so successfully that reading the book becomes an uplifting, rewarding experience. We share many hopeful, amusing, frustrating, infuriating moments and we meet inspirational people - gentle, dedicated, yet totally professional - in all the hospitals in which Eric is treated. This book also reinforces the importance of family when ill fortune strikes: children and grandchildren are an important source of comfort and stimulation to the increasingly ill patient. Cracknell may be reminding all of us not to turn away from the dying, no matter how difficult that may be. Max Oliver is the convenor of the Sydney Independent Booksellers Group, and manager of Lindfield Bookshop. C. 2000 Thorpe-Bowker and contributors