In 2006, Richard Gwyn was given a year to live unless a suitable liver donor were found. A novelist and poet, he lost nine years of his life to vagrancy and addiction around the Mediterranean, principally Spain and Crete. This memoir is an account of his “lost” years of reckless travel and serial hospitalizations; redemption via friendship, imagination, love and fatherhood; recovery; living under sentence of death, and the life-saving gift of a hepatic graft.
The Vagabond’s Breakfast won Wales Book of the Year for Creative Nonfiction in 2012.
‘Richard Gwyn began The Vagabond’s Breakfast while recovering from a liver transplant. A memoir of the nine years of drink, drugs and vagrancy that did for his first liver, it’s a jagged tale gracefully told. Full of humane surreality, there’s something whole, even holistic, about the brokenness of the life it pieces (back) together. Like many books about illness, it’s also about health: Gwyn is a citizen of both realms, describing life with ‘two passports.” Patrick McGuinness in TLS Books of the Year.
‘An enthralling memoir of a young man going deeply and terribly astray.’ Tessa Hadley in the London Review of Books.
‘A bloody marvellous piece of work.’ Lindsay Clarke, author of The Chymical Wedding and The Water Theatre.
‘Spicy and compelling mix of memoir and philosophy . . . a coherent and stylishly literate account . . . a book to remember.’ Steve Dube, The Western Mail
‘Brutally honest, poetic and sometimes funny account . . . brave, original and strangely compelling.’ Morning Star
‘Best book I have read so far this year. On a par with Hilary Mantel or Joan Didion. Utterly terrifying, funny, thought provoking and seemingly without an ounce of self-pity. A masterpiece.’ Scott Pack.
‘Stunning… and as intimate and accurate as Virginia Woolf’s On Being Ill. On finishing breakfast with Gwyn, the reader is left with the sensation of finding himself at health’s absolute zero, one step from the neighbouring kingdom, terrified and relieved at the same time.’ Andrés Neuman in Clarín (Argentina).
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