Jan Pryor’s memoir of the sudden death of her baby Alexander is powerfully honest and moving, with a thoughtful, even at times humorous, account of the long slow march to acceptance that ensues.’

Mark McCrum


‘A memoir of death, life and family living. Infant Alexander’s brief life and sudden cot death. A family remembering; another child and the children growing up. All acutely observed and recorded by Alexander’s mother with empathy, insight and openness and thirty years of hindsight. Beautifully written and the most compelling and enlightening of family memoirs.’

Martin Richards. University of Cambridge


"An exquisitely written account of the death of a baby and the effect on the lives of those around it. And yet far more than this. Jan Pryor manages to touch every nerve in this brilliant memoir.A look at happy lives interrupted by the unbearable.  I loved this book - spare and profound, sad yet optimistic, poignant yet not the slightest bit sentimental. Everyone who has lost a child - and, more importantly, those who haven't - should read this."

Linda Burgess. Novelist and memoirist.

This is a beautifully written, optimistic book offering much in the way of wisdom and shared experience arising from a sad event.

The Alexander referred to is Jan Pryor’s 4 month old son who died whilst she and her New Zealand family were living in southern England in 1981.

The seismic impact of Alexander’s loss shifted family relationships. The practice then of advising young parents to just move on from such traumas is challenged by Pryor who argues that moving on is simply not an option. There are other ways of coping.

Pryor is unflinching as she describes some of the awful reality surrounding the loss of a young child and how she and her family reassembled their lives as a result.

Although this is essentially the view of Pryor as a mother, she does have a strong academic interest in the psychology and make up of families. She is a former head the Families Commission in New Zealand. However, none of this interferes with the writing although it does give it some authority.

Pryor is herself a child of the 1940s. The backdrop to the memoir follows the author’s own development during a time when a woman’s role in academia was not a given. All this is treated with the same honesty and, indeed, humour which underpins the whole book.

This delightful book is a memoir but it offers so much more than the usual memoir format.

Most of all it is a fascinating read.

Highly recommended.

Peter Farrell, author

This tender memoir of an infant’s brief life, his sudden death and the impact of this on his parents, siblings and extended family is a most compelling book. The author gives wonderful psychological insights into her own (and others’) grief and describes beautifully the long dynamic process towards a gradual acceptance of her loss. The book is beautifully structured and is written with huge sensitivity and an easy style. There is plenty of sadness, moments of humour, and in the end, room for hope. Amazon review 5 stars

A lucid and honest account of the many consequences of the sudden death of baby Alexander, beautifully written by his mother, 34 years after the event. 

She movingly describes the long processes of grieving, and her gradual discovery that joy can still follow such pain, and even co-exist with such pain; that trauma can lead us to grow in unexpected ways. 

We learn about the impacts on other members of her family and on her marriage, as well as on friends and work colleagues. Windows are opened onto different phases of her life, with shifting perspectives over time: life before Alexander’s death, and life after. 


A must-read for anyone affected by the loss of an infant or a child, including health and social care professionals. Some of the latest research findings around sudden infant deaths are included, as well as new insights into what parents need in these situations.  

Above all, she reveals the healing power of love and friendship, and the processes of forgiveness, for oneself and for others.

Rick Morrison

'...It is tempting to contrast this book favourably with Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, in which the American author managed the story of her adult daughter's dying in a way that seemed to exploit it for narrative effect.  Pryor is no less artful, but she doesn't exploit anything, nor does she try to impose drama or shock on events that are more than dramatic or shocking enough when simply told. ' Paul Little, North and South.

Copyright After Alexander