The Song of the Whole Wide World
A few months into pregnancy, Tamarin Norwood learned that the baby she was carrying would not live. Over the sleepless weeks that followed, Tamarin, her husband and their three-year-old son tried to navigate the unfamiliar waters of anticipatory sorrow and to prepare for what was to come.
Written partly during pregnancy and partly during the silent maternity leave that followed, The Song of the Whole Wide World is an emergency response to grief held somewhere between the womb, the grave and the many stories that bind them: stories drawn from
medical science, poetry, liturgy, vivid waking dreams of underwater life, and knowledge held deep within the body.
This profoundly moving and intimate account offers a lyrical and fearless meditation on birth, death, and the possibilities of consolation.
In 2023 The Song of the Whole Wide World was selected as an Editor's Choice in the Bookseller, and included in the Stylist list of best non-fiction for 2024.
Available from February 2024
‘I’ve never read a book like The Song of the Whole Wide World. It’s a thrilling act of imagination about mothering that illuminates the body and its metaphysical matters. Tamarin Norwood’s writing shows a respect towards her son so pure that I felt both humbled and proud to witness it. I’m still reeling from the piercing pain and joy of this book. Unforgettable.’
— Gwyneth Lewis MBE, Inaugural National Poet of Wales
‘What an incredible book. I don’t think I have ever read anything so delicate – every placement of every word is perfect.’
— Lucy Easthope, author of When the Dust Settles: Searching for Hope after Disaster and The Recovery Myth: The Plans and Situated Realities of Post-Disaster Response
‘A work of great and subtle beauty. It expanded my understanding of life, death and what it means to be a mother.’
— Cathy Rentzenbrink, author of The Last Act of Love: The Story of My Brother and His Sister
‘A piercingly beautiful book of rare emotional precision, which urges us all to love bravely. This book changed me. I couldn’t put it down.’
— Anna Beecher, author of Here Comes the Miracle
‘A heartbreakingly brave, candid and lyrical memoir of baby loss.’
— Leah Hazard, author of Womb: The Inside Story of Where We All Began and Hard Pushed: A Midwife’s Story
‘This book took my breath away. It’s a journey of love and loss and I’m grateful for Tamarin’s gift to write and articulate so tenderly what many bereaved parents cannot.’
— Nicola Welsh, CEO of Held In Our Hearts, a charity providing baby loss counselling
‘Hypnotic, mesmerising, devastating. A portrait of what it is to be human when confronted with the unimaginable. It is about life and death and love. So much love. It is about the minutiae yet also the existential. Blown away. Out of such tragedy has come something so beautiful.’
— Marisa Bate, author of Wild Hope
‘Beautiful and undeniably – necessarily – sad.’
— Pandora Sykes, author of How Do We Know We’re Doing It Right?
‘Visceral and meticulous, Norwood’s account is an astonishing and unflinching act of remembrance and love.’
— Carys Bray, author of When the Lights Go Out and The Museum of You
‘Gabriel’s story is a jewel, hewn by Tamarin’s hand from the deep reef of human sorrow. Read it, and weep with compassion as she tells of her journey to the furthermost reaches of maternal grief.’
— John Boulton, Emeritus Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Newcastle NSW Australia, and Honorary Professor at the University of Sydney
‘The Song of the Whole Wide World is a tender and poetic account of unimaginable grief.’
— Alice Kinsella, author of Milk: On Motherhood and Madness
‘The Song of the Whole Wide World shimmers. Tamarin Norwood’s poetic writing is gut-wrenching and gorgeous, all at the same time. It is a story for anyone grappling with the forces of gravity of life and death, of medical decisions, and surrendering to waves of love.’
— Amy Kuebelbeck, author of A Gift of Time: Continuing Your Pregnancy When Your Baby’s Life Is Expected to Be Brief
About the Author
Dr Tamarin Norwood is a writer and academic with a background in fine art. She has written on drawing, metaphor, memorial and grief, and has an interest in ritual and rural history.
The Song the the Whole Wide World is Tamarin’s second book. Her drawing memoir The Mourning Lines was published in 2021 by Ma Bibliothèque. She is now working on her next book, an exploration of early childhood, its ways of understanding knowledge, wonder and threat, and their entwinement with maternal and ecological time.
As an academic, Tamarin is working with national baby loss charities Held in Our Hearts, Sands, and Antenatal Results and Choices, to learn from parents about the meanings and rituals they invent in reproductive loss when cultural narratives fail to serve them. This work, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, builds on a collaboration with Held In Our Hearts creating therapeutic writing resources for parents bereaved at birth, and on her essay Something Good Enough, which won the Lancet Wakley Essay Prize in 2021. For this work she won the 2023 Vice-Chancellor's Award for impactful research and innovation at Loughborough University, where she is a research fellow. She is also a visiting fellow at the University of Bath, and a visiting scholar at the University of Oxford.
Tamarin lives with her family in Northamptonshire.
Author photo (c) Lorentz Gullachsen 2023
Waterstones Gower St, London
Pregnancy, Motherhood and Channelling Grief into Writing. Tamarin Norwood and Jennie Agg will be discussing their acclaimed memoirs which both deal with their experience of baby loss.
Oxford Literary Festival
Perspectives on Grief. Bereaved parent Lizzie Pickering and writer and academic Dr Tamarin Norwood discuss their experiences of grief and the work they do to help others experiencing loss. Interviewed by Susannah Frieze.
Cambridge Literary Festival
Strange Bodies. Join Tom de Freston and Tamarin Norwood, in conversation with New Statesman’s Alona Ferber, for an intimate and fearless discussion of birth, death, art, and the possibilities of consolation.
Bath Central Library
Grief Writing Workshop: Finding Peace in Landscapes of Loss. Tamarin Norwood leads a gentle, no-pressure workshop offering practical tools to get you through the day (and night) when you're grieving.