When his 88-year-old mother asked him to buy heroin so she could end her life, the author Guy Kennaway decided there was only one thing to do: write a book about it

How can you resist an author who proclaims on his dust jacket: “Guy Kennaway lives for pleasure, producing books only when all else has failed”? He’s someone I’ve been running into at parties for years (he is friends with Jay Jopling of White Cube and the artist Mat Collishaw), but I never once suspected he was a writer. I thought maybe he was an art dealer of some sort, or possibly a collector – he was too well-dressed and socially assured to be an artist, still less a writer. That’s fine, he says; he doesn’t hang out with writers, because he thinks they are rather dreary, bitter people – he prefers artists because, “They know how to have a good time and they’ve got money.” But it turns out he has published five books, and his new book, Time To Go, is a corker which should keep book clubs arguing for years.

It is both a serious discussion of self-euthanasia – which is how the publishers seem to be billing it – and a darkly hilarious account of his tricky relationship with his mother, Susie. It starts with her asking him to get her some heroin because she wants to be able to kill herself when the time comes. She is 88 and her husband, Stanley, is even older. They are both getting frail and she fears they might end up in some ghastly care home. Also, they live in France and are worried Brexit might mean an end to free healthcare. So it would be nice if she and Stanley could die together, in their double bed, at a time of their own choosing. How sweet, you might think, how sensible. But then you don’t yet know Susie. She is “certainly no Mrs Tiggy-Winkle,” Guy warns us, but “a woman of passion, anger and determination. She still relished revenge and had many scores to settle.” He thinks one of the scores might be with him and that she is plotting to get him busted for heroin.

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