When thoughts often turn to death

Every Third Thought: On Life, Death and the Endgame. By Robert McCrum. Picador; 256 pages; £14.99.

IN 1995, aged only 42, Robert McCrum had a severe stroke—an experience that he memorably chronicled in “My Year Off” with the help of Sarah Lyall, whom he had married just two months before his sudden misfortune. Despite an impressive recovery, Mr McCrum, a British publisher and the former literary editor of the Observer, has lived ever since “in the shadow of death”.

The shadow deepened when, in 2014, after he and Ms Lyall separated, a fall in a London street brought a psychological shift: a sense of having entered life’s endgame. His new book—which takes its title from Prospero’s words in “The Tempest”, “Every third thought shall be my grave”—is an unflinching exploration of his own mortality and that of other people. It draws on personal experience, the testimony of…Continue reading