BBC Radio 4, 6 March 2013
Nicholas Heiney, the son of broadcasters Libby Purves and Paul Heiney,
was found dead at his home at the age of 22, after having committed suicide. He had been undergoing treatment for depression.
While clearing out his room, Purves had discovered his life-story written on a series of crumpled pieces of paper, post-it
stickers. She transcribed it - all 35,000 words - and sent it to Nicholas' former tutor at Oxford, Duncan Wu.
It was Wu who urged publication of the document, as the record of a very singular presence.
In Purves' adaptation of the book, what emerged most tangibly was the gulf between
Purves' memories of her son - as he went through various stages of education - and Nicholas' (Joseph Drake's/ Luca Thomas') writings.
As a mother, Purves was primarily interested in Nicholas' future, as well as being concerned for his welfare as he embarked
on a series of adventures, including embarking on several sea-voyages around the world. Nicholas found it difficult
to communicate with his parents; most of his letters and emails home comprised a series of cliches revealing nothing about
his true state of mind. It was only through the act of writing - mostly for himself - that he could become truly honest.
Although describing his adventures in almost meticulous detail, Nicholas used his
lifestory to try and make sense of his emotional reactions to the world around him. Try as he might, he always felt
at odds with his environment: moments of happiness were followed by moments of intense reflection. It seemed that he
was only happy while at sea, away from family, friends and home.
Nonetheless, he emerged as a highly talented writer, with a penchant for describing
his emotions in vivid, colourful detail. Although we might grieve at the way in which he died at such a young age, at
least we have a permanent record of a refreshingly original voice. The director of this Afternoon Drama was