I want to go back to Europe. According to my newsfeed on Facebook, apparently everyone I know is enjoying the sun’s rays in the Netherlands, the Mediterranean in Italy or a chocolate croissant in Paris. By comparison, Melbourne is cold, miserable and stressful. Basically, the combination of winter, working full-time and reality (i.e. not being on a holiday) sucks.

Which is why I decided to pick up Ruth Cracknell’s Journey From Venice: if I can’t physically visit Venice, I’ll do the next best thing and experience it through the pages of a book. By reading about blue skies, gondolas and endless descriptions of beautiful art, I can at least pretend I’m there, right?

Wrong. Apparently, Journey from Venice isn’t about the joys of international travel. It isn’t about exquisite art or outrageous food. Well, that’s a lie. It is. For the first thirty pages. And then it is a memoir of the endurances a couple has to go through, and the strength that they have within their love.

Journey from Venice, a memoir by Australian author, actor and playwright Ruth Cracknell is the heartbreaking and somber story of the journey her and her husband make, both literally and metaphorically when they go on a trip to Venice. What starts as a much-needed break for the couple quickly turns into a nightmare, when her husband, Eric, has a stroke and ends up hospitalised. Things go from bad to worse when they discover that Eric not only has had a stroke, but he also has a rare blood condition, pneumonia and, eventually, lung cancer. Not only does Ruth have to deal with the anxieties, stresses and heartbreak of watching a loved one fall ill, but she faces the daunting task of getting Eric flown back to Australia where he can die amongst his friends and family.

Journey from Venice deals with life-changing (in fact, life-ending) issues in a simple and poignant way. The harrowing journey that Ruth and Eric take, both together and separately, could have been written as a macabre adventure, a gut-wrenching sob fest, or even just a 200 page outpouring of rage and pain. All would have been fitting, and definitely understandable. However, Ruth has written Journey from Venice instead as a tribute to the 41-year marriage that she and Eric have, she writes about a bond that grows ever stronger as his health deteriorates, and the strength that Ruth finds in herself, her family and the small pleasures in life.

This memoir is beautifully written and Ruth captures the essence of what she was feeling and experiencing in a spine-tinglingly accurate way. My heart broke for her and her family, of the pain that she must have gone through, a pain that almost everyone will experience in their lives. I felt completely immersed into Ruth and Eric’s journey, and their suffering, whether it was in Venice or Sydney.

While Journey from Venice is a sad memoir, it is also poignant, simple and sweet. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to read some more Australian fiction or to anyone who appreciates simple love stories that don’t always end in fireworks.

Have you read Journey from Venice? Have you heard of Ruth Cracknell? Let me know!

journey from venice by ruth cracknell

Journey from Venice – (image taken from http://www.gr-assets.com)

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