It was a horrible shock when our much-loved author, Denise Robertson, died in April. So far, each time a new author has come through to Hopcyn Press, the writer him or herself has become a real friend, and this was particularly true of Denise. We are located in Russell Rd, a turning off the very end of Kensington High Street in London. Right now the cherry trees are in full flower, and how I wish that we could expect anther visit from Denise today; that she would ring our bell as she has done so many times, and could see what this Spring has done to our street.
Denise’s latest book, DON’T CRY ALOUD cost her a great deal of pain and effort to produce. She preferred writing her famous novels, but this project of contributing what she could to the fight for humanity and justice in the Family Courts was so important to her that she was determined to see it through. The heart-breaking stories of enforced adoption which she had come across in her career as an agony aunt haunted her. Following the publication of DON’T CRY ALOUD last year there was a good deal of publicity in the media, and I watched her being interviewed on Loose Women on TV. Knowing her well by now, I was surprised to see that she was nervous and even fragile in the intensity of her feeling for the subject. I had looked across at her so many times when she was talking in the privacy of our office about the horrendous suffering experienced by some parents in the Family Courts, and seen tears in her eyes. But even so I had not fully realized how intense her emotions were. She was a very lovely looking woman and must have been a complete dish when young. She had a delightful friendly and intelligent manner, and was always beautifully dressed; and although she was no longer at all slim she made no fuss about climbing our stairs!
She hoped for a good deal of support, when her book came out, from Christopher Booker, andothers who had a declared interest in this area of the justice system, and there was a tremendous, but sadly brief, upsurge of interest in the problem. I wonder what she thinks of it now. I had rather wanted Denise to explain the origin of the title, DON’T CRY ALOUD on a blank page before the beginning of the story, but I can tell you here. It refers to advice given by Social Services to mothers who face a last interview with the child which is to be taken away. Apparently the mother is urged not to cry aloud, but to weep silently, and to force her tears to flow inwardly where the child may not see them and be damaged by the remembrance of a mother’s frantic grief. The quotation from the judge, Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division of the High Court of England and Wales, at the beginning of DON’T CRY ALOUD says it all:
"It must never be forgotten that, with the state’s abandonment of the right to impose capital sentences, orders of the kind which family judges are typically invited to make in public law proceedings are amongst the most drastic that any judge in any jurisdiction is ever empowered to make. When a family judge makes a placement order or an adoption order in relation to a 20-year-old mother’s baby, the mother will have to live with the consequences of that decision for what may be upwards of 60 or even 70 years, and the baby for what may be upwards of 80 or even 90 years."
I pray that Denise’s generous efforts and genius for telling a story in her book DON’T CRY ALOUD will continue to touch the hearts of many readers, and arouse the sort of response which can force bureaucratic changes where they are so badly needed.