the eclipse

Review by Bob Rhubart

Under any circumstance the death of a loved one presents a complex and profound emotional burden that is undiminished by the universality of the experience. But the spiritual and emotional toll rises considerably when life's inevitable conclusion is hastened by suicide. Suicide, and the turmoil left in its wake, provides both fuel and fire for Antonella Gambotto-Burke's The Eclipse: A Memoir of Suicide.

Presented in three sections, The Eclipse recounts how suicide has shadowed Gambotto-Burke. The book focuses primarily on two suicides: the 1995 overdose death of Michael VerMeulen -- the deeply troubled American editor of British GQ with whom she carried on a tumultuous and often violent affair; and the death in October 2001 of her beloved brother, Gianluca.

While the latter event certainly triggered the brilliant and beautiful emotional deluge captured in this book, it is the cumulative toll of these suicides that drives a narrative both haunting and irresistible. Startlingly honest and deeply personal, The Eclipse describes the author's passage through the emotional rubble left in the aftermath of the self-destruction of people with whom she had the deepest human connection.

Gambotto-Burke's account of her [engagement to] VerMeulen dominates the first section of the book. Given a cast of characters that includes familiar names from the worlds of journalism, literature, and film, the story has elements one might expect to find in a bestselling novel of the sort that ends up as a Lifetime network movie of the week. But the reader encounters instead the diametric opposite of melodrama, a stark emotional reality expressed through the author's remarkable literary gifts.

The middle section of the book deals with the suicide of Gianluca Gambotto, a likeable man whose intelligence and gift for wry humor masked crippling self-doubt and depression. The circumstances and particulars of Gianluca's suicide are harrowing in their depiction of the utter sadness from which he sought escape.

But there is far more to The Eclipse than sadness and death. It is the author's exploration of the frontiers of grief and near madness that gives this book its enormous power. As a record of her effort to process the anguish, to triumph over the impenetrable gloom, The Eclipse accomplishes something remarkable. Beneath the terrible weight of the events she describes, Gambotto-Burke finds the tiny, waning ember of life and fans it into flame.

The third and final section of the book describes Gambotto-Burke's spiritual and emotional reawakening as she comes to terms with the reality of her brother's passing. But she strikes no truce with death by suicide. Indeed, reshaped by these wrenching events, Gambotto-Burke emerges as a formidable activist, whose utter rejection of conventional treatments for depression -- and of the euthanasia movement -- is likely to add new fuel to an already heated debate.

On a less political note, her observations and conclusions on the nature and purpose of grief and on matters of spirituality are relayed in language that reveals a breathtaking blend of intellectual prowess and artistic sensibility. Gambotto-Burke's exploration of the issues she confronts is both philosophical and emotional, but steers clear of sappy New Age sentimentality.

While suicide provides the thematic core of The Eclipse, the book, as the title suggests, is about passing through shadow. Antonella Gambotto-Burke's unique ability to describe that passage infuses the book with a vibrancy and life that more than balances the depressing nature of the subject matter. In the end, The Eclipse is about embracing life, and all that it entails.


Grief: different experiences, different expressions
Anger and depression
Trauma + recovery
Illness: a new perspective
Suicidal urges
Learn more about Antonella Gambotto-Burke ...
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Find your own North Star
Optimism - the key
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FREE suicide survivor counseling * strongly recommended

A superb site for grieving teens and children - Julie's Place
Email Deb about deceased brothers, sisters, or friends ...
Create a memorial for your beloved
Email here if you are suicidal ...
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Free memorial page for your murdered beloved
Great free guided audio online relaxation exercises