Spoken Word

Ayrton Senna

by Christopher Hilton

Audiosport, c.2hrs, pounds 8.99

Sudden untimely death is the most powerful memento mori: the search for significance in the half-lived life can be agonisingly intense. is the tragic story of the racing-driver who thought, wrongly, he had a private deal with God. It could easily have degenerated into hagiography, laced as it is with Chris Rea's song "Saudade", but Christopher Hilton's account of how the spookily private Senna lived his life - the first sound he made was an imitation gear change, and he was given his first go-kart aged four - is impressively objective. The greatest irony of all was that he had already decided that the race in which he was killed was to have been his last Formula One outing.

Before I Say Goodbye

by Ruth Picardie

Penguin, c.3 hrs, pounds 8.99

The journalist Ruth Picardie was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 31, a year after the birth of her twins. This tribute is made up of intimate, often desperately ignoble e-mails, the seven more polished columns she wrote for The Observer on the subject, and reactions of family and friends to her death. Together they frame a thoroughly modern young woman who had to face a cruel truth - and did so in a thoroughly modern way. Saddest of all is the long list of quacks and desperate remedies that all failed to alter the "black river of loss" in which she was drowning; most splendid is the bravery with which she could say out loud that "the bottom line is, I'm dying".

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