One to definitely pick up for Christmas
Based on a tragic tale of one family, in this heart-whelming story I felt a real sorrow for what had happened. It takes you back to what must have been a fascinating, exciting childhood to his day-to-day living. Timothy Knatchbull has really re-captured all the feelings evoked at this tragic time. A really interesting, if not emotional read and one to definitely pick up for Christmas. Lucy Smith
Exceptional book, well worth reading. Poppy
For those of you who enjoy pure, frank honesty
For those of you that lived during the ‘troubles’ in Ireland this is a must read. For those of you who enjoy pure, frank honesty the same. It is a very emotive yet uncomfortably enjoyable read. Henharrier
An emotive book
This was recommended to me by a friend and I’m so glad I’ve read it. My parents, who are both Irish Catholics, always spoke of this atrocity when I was growing up. They remember Lord Mountbatten as a wonderful man. Sparkes
A very emotional book
Lots of memories from when I was in Northern Ireland. I found it a very emotional book to read but enjoyed it none-the-less. Yvonne G. Romain
Beautifully written and a very touching account of an extremely traumatic event, which touched the lives of so many people. Jet
The Saddest Read
Of all the books about “lives” I have read this is indeed the saddest. On receiving the book I began as I always do by looking at the photographs. The most heartbreaking is on the first page with a caption beginning “Stealing the limelight”, these two tiny boys, holding hands on the beach and smiling, as they always seemed to be doing. The other photographs all show the twins clearly enjoying each other’s company and the lovely cover picture, making the ensuing story all the more tragic. One looks at the photographs realising that one of them only has a short time to live, which continues the heartbreak. He clearly loved his brother and one understands how it took him so many years to get over the loss. The end of the book gives the feeling that although Nick could never be forgotten Tim has reached a stage, long travelled to, of being able to move on. It is a well-written book going into much previously unreported or probably unknown detail. Sometimes reading a tragic story might feel voyeuristic but this is not so here Tim is telling the story of his brother and his love for him and it is also good to read about a unusually happy aristocratic family not only united at the time of the tragedy but remaining so. Bookworm
Moving personal history
I think above all it’s a very fair book, as well as being moving and instructive. If you have any experience of PTSD, I think you will find it revealing and supportive. Nigel
Include on your Christmas wish list
Timothy Knatchbull had a privileged upbringing but tragedy when it strikes doesn’t concern itself about privilege and Timothy’s account of his life leading up to the bomb and how his world and that of his family changed over the months and years that followed is filled with sorrow and courage. How he came to forgive those who murdered his twin and grandparents is inspirational. This book has been a great read and gives an insight into Irish politics in the early days of the Troubles and how the deep love of a family can overcome such tragedy. I would highly recommend this book to include on your Christmas wish list. Lynn Austin
I first saw this book on a coffee table in a country house when I was touring in Ireland, and I knew that I had to read it myself. It was unforgettable–I could not put it down. Timothy Knatchbull’s account of the bombing and its long shadow is intelligent, sensitive, and compelling. After all the misery he has been through, one cannot help but rejoice that he has found fulfillment in a happy marriage with five children. He paints such a touching portrait of his relationship with his late twin and with the rest of his family, particularly with his parents, who were also grievously injured in the bombing. This is the best royalty book that I have read in years. R Klein
Wonderfully written by a person who knows
Rarely books like this surface. It reminds me of the Douglas Bader book ‘Reach for the Sky’. A classic! Timothy puts together his story and many letters from family members. They are so loving and deep. Years after that fateful day it all fits together so well. Losing family, losing a twin and coming through the trauma this is a fantastic testament to human nature. A riveting read. With great understanding of Irish politics. The book has helped me through some troubled past. Thank you. Mr Mudd
A book for anyone in grief
A carefully and skillfully written memoir of a grief so difficult to bear that one is left reeling. I am sure this testimony will help others in grief especially those who have lost a twin – indeed I would buy it as a gift for anyone who has lost a family member to terrorism. Sophie Neville
Deeply thought-provoking, excellent book
I agree with other reviewers in hoping that this book will become widely available in the USA; it’s very surprising that it isn’t already and also disappointing to see how few libraries have it.
This is a challenging and most worthwhile book. It took two readings to sort out the details of the timeline and to get a full grasp of the many participants; I think that was because the emotional impact was too powerful the first time through to allow adequate processing of the mass of information Timothy had to dig through in order to understand for himself.
There are many stories here, the central one being the immensely close and loving relationship between the author and his identical twin, Nicholas, the brutal loss of Nicholas at the age of fourteen and serious wounding of the author (and others) and the author’s struggles to grasp and accept the death of his brother over the course of more than two decades. The minute descriptions of family life and the assassination of Lord Mountbatten are interesting enough in themselves, but they serve primarily to set the background for the story of the twins and Timothy’s later life as a “lone twin”.
The writing is startling in its emotional candor, which is necessary for the author to achieve his stated goal of being helpful to others who have suffered trauma and grief. Even more remarkable is the matter-of-factness with which the author describes events, his relationship with Nicholas and other family members and his emotional states as he reacts to Nicholas’s death. The writing is never cloying. When Timothy writes that he cried “buckets of tears”, it seems almost an understatement rather than excess. And the reader comes to understand that this tragedy occurred at what was probably the most vulnerable point in the lives of Nicholas and Timothy, for they were just on the doorstep of adolescence, a time when they were most closely bonded and a time when their paths might have begun to diverge.
Many issues and questions arise from this book aside from those dealt with directly in the text. What is it like to be an identical twin? What is it like for the surviving twin when his sibling dies? How wise is it to raise identical twins in an environment that emphasizes their “twinhood” and, presumably, increases further their emotional bonding? Some exploration on the web helped to educate this non-twin about some of this (see http://www.lonetwinnetwork.org.uk or http://www.twinlesstwins.org).
The internet was also helpful in resolving this reader’s most pressing question after finishing the book. Throughout the final chapters, there seemed to be a crescendo of hope in Timothy that he would be able to reach some releasing point that would bring about a great relief from the trauma of his loss. The closer he got to it, the more I doubted his hopes could be answered. And when at last he pronounced himself “free”, I wondered how long it could last and just what he had been freed from when he felt himself able to “say goodbye to Nick.”
In a 2008 interview of Timothy’s mother, Countess Mountbatten (Lady Brabourne in the book), she recounts how, after the birth of his first child, Timothy told her that he saw “part of Nicholas” in the child’s eyes, reasoning that, since he and Nicholas were identical twins, the half of the child that had come from him was also of Nick. Timothy wrote a published article in 2012 in support of Queen Elizabeth’s trip to Ireland and her acts of reconciliation there. In it he described having recently seen on television a piece about the Mountbatten assassination. Included was a scene of Nicholas and Timothy playing on the beach with their grandfather. The result of seeing this was renewed tears for Timothy and the confession that he continued to “miss Nicky terribly” and expected he always would. This clarified for me what Timothy had achieved in the story this book tells, the difficult acceptance that his brother truly was dead and the equal acceptance of both his continuing grief and love for him. The book is but one of several memorials to the memory of Nicholas, all of them touching and all of them helpful to others. Matt
Honestly written and pleasant to read. A memoir of times hopefully in the past. A good holiday read which is also educating. Gerry P Cahill
This book recalls and reconstructs the bombing of Lord Mountbatten’s boat off the west coast of Ireland by the IRA. One of those killed in the incident was the author’s twin brother, from whom he has never been separated in their 14 years of life. He recalls his feelings of bereavement and loss of a brother who was more than a normal sibling. He spends his early adult life trying to find out how the incident was planned and executed, and interviews people who were witnesses or were involved in the family’s rescue. A personal story, all the more interesting because it is written by the twin himself. Bookworm
A sensitive and heartrending account of how the author at last found peace of mind
I had met the author and knew a lot about the background of Lord Louis Mountbatten, so was particularly interested to read this wonderfully well researched and rounded book about so many aspects of the whole situation, as well as the difficulty in overcoming the loss of an identical twin brother. My heartfelt congratulations to Timothy Knatchbull. Eugen M. Schweitzer
A very interesting account
A very interesting account into the lives of the Lord Mountbatten family following his and other members of his family assassination due to a bomb which was planted into their boat in which they were passengers by the I.R.A.
The author Timothy Knatchbull is a grandchild of Lord Mountbatten, and his twin brother was killed in the same tragic assassination along with his grandmother. Timothy and his parent’s sustained horrific life threatening injuries, but fortunately they did manage to survive.
I really enjoyed this book and although this terrible event took place some time ago it was good to be reminded of the events. I admired the support that the family received from the Irish community, and from a very wide circle of friends. If I have any complaints it was the number of names that were introduced throughout the book. I read this book on my Kindle – perhaps the written book has a list of names in its biblography to refer to. Colleen Brown
Extraordinary Book – Memoir, Mystery, History
Preferring fiction (and happy endings) to non-fiction and terrorism, I don’t know why I put this on my book list. But having access to it from an English library, I thought I’d glance through a few pages. Whenever I put it down, however, I found I had to pick it up again. Knatchbull manages to be just compelling enough, just controlled enough, just fast-paced enough that it was always a rewarding use of my time. Most important was the self-control — despite the opportunities for mawkishness or gore, he chose instead to keep readers like me going to the end. (Where, yes, I finally did break down in tears.)
While written for the benefit of other bereaved twins, I think the book raises another critical question, namely the guilt of those who look away when acts of terrorism are perpetrated. Clearly, the individual convicted of the crime was not acting alone — someone else made the clear-cut decision to trigger the bomb and kill up to six innocent people whilst assassinating Mountbatten (succeeding in killing three of them). Why didn’t the Garda hunt this person, and any others, down? Why didn’t the community insist on this?
Whether it’s this Irish failure of national will, or Germany’s in the 1930’s, or, indeed, our own on so many fronts, it is a question that the book invites us to ponder. At the same time, the book does an excellent job of describing how a person, or a monarch, can reach a point of forgiveness — a point where forgiveness is the only way to protect others from the grief one has experienced oneself. Jenny Lyn
A wonderful inspiring book
I first became aware of it watching Mr. Knatchbull on Youtube addressing an Indian audience. As he mentioned, his 87 year old mother had, with difficulty, traveled there to be with him. Most who were alive on that day in 1979 heard about the bombing. News reports told of the murders of Lord Mountbatten, his son-in-law’s mother, one of his twin grandson and a young boy who helped on the boat. Briefly mentioned was that his other twin grandson, daughter and son-in-law were badly injured. This book tells of some of their terrible injuries. More, it tells of the family’s great love and courage. Mr Knatchbull’s story should be of help to any child suffering grief, but especially to a child suffering the loss of an identical twin. Keep on Reader
Factual account from a personal point of view
This book gives a graphic and factual account of the explosion that killed Lord Louis Mountbatten and members of his family related by his grandson who was seriously injured in the blast. Although it cannot fail to be emotional, it is not sentimental or mawkish and gives a picture of how a terrorist act perpetrated for political means affected a family. Although this family was closely connected to the Royal family, it is made clear that they are still a family just like any other. This event caused outrage throughout the world but devastation to this family and the book is a story of how Timothy Knatchbull understood this and the personal insights make compelling reading. Dr K
Well worth the read
I found Timothy Knatchbull’s book well worth the read. The story of how he and his close knit family faced such a terrible tragedy kept me glued to the book which I finished in 5 days. I felt like I was there as it happened. The story of his family’s courage and healing brought tears to my eyes. I do believe his grandfather, Lord Mountbatten, would have been pleased and proud to know his grandson, though injured from the accident, was able to work through a range of emotions to eventually process the tragedy and receive healing as he unearthed layer after layer of what actually happened from a number of different perspectives.
Timothy’s willingness to bear his soul and share the heart break of losing a twin was touching as well. As he faced up to the loss and returned to the scene of the bombing accident, I felt myself cheering him on. It’s the story of triumph over tragedy. To say the book touched me would be an understatement. Knatchbull’s attention to details is phenomenal. Richard Hay
Best book to read this year
Most compelling story – a MUST read. Such a brave and honest account of a family who was thrown into grief. Gill
I have just finished reading this book and had to write. Timothy’s account of that dreadful day in August 1979, and the aftermath, had me gripped from the first page. It is beautifully written, very sad, but also very moving. I thought it was lovely that his siblings took such care of each other while their parents were recovering in Sligo Hospital, and that they have no feelings of bitterness about what happened. Tim’s final goodbye to Nick was so sad but also very hopeful. The photo of him with his children on the beach at Classiebawn in August 2004 shows a man finally at peace. A wonderful book.Louise Haugh
I really enjoyed this book. Unfortunately a true story which at times is very sad but I found it really interesting and so well written. Lizzy
From a Clear Blue Sky offers a clear view of what is really important
I have just finished reading From a Clear Blue Sky by Timothy Knatchbull. I found myself unable to put it down, and when I did put it down the thought of it still rattled around my brain.
In the book Timothy talks about his long journey, from identical twin hood, through trauma and on through recovery not only from the trauma itself but the devastating loss of what to him, was a part of him, his brother.
It is beautifully written and offers clear fact finding but also shares with the reader some of the internal struggles and miseries. I think that this might make it sound sad and mawkish but it is anything but. It offers a clear view of what is really important. Relationships with the people that surround one and the book ultimately leaves one with the feeling of optimism not only that a happy life can still be achieved, but as is often the case for me, a wonder at the human psyche to recover.
I think it was particularly poignant to me because it neatly displayed how, when we consider and begin to understand our past and how events form us personally that we are set free to make progress. I am clear that it is only in having some understanding of our past that we are free to say goodbye to some of the sadder aspects of our formation; and these are not necessarily dramatic events, and then gain clarity that allows us to be free, to let go and move on peacefully with our lives. Angela Hackett
Uplifting, tragic, heart warming and heart wrenching. Wonderful book. No self pity, just a frank and open account…no human being should have to go through. What a wonderful family. Sarah
Well worth the read
A well written moving story written by an intelligent and generous person. You can learn from reading it. Anna
Simplicity, truth, anguish and love
I bought this indelible book just by chance and have been overwhelmed by its simplicity, truth, anguish and love. I have no association with Lord Mountbatten nor his family but the contents and the author’s journey after his tragic loss left me overwhelmed and tearfully joining him at every painful stage and event.
I just had to leave this comment as a mark of my appreciation to Timothy Knatchbull for his emotional courage in reliving the tragic event and its stark impact on his and his family’s lives. I cannot remember where I was on that fateful day in August 1979 but will never forget the numbness it left and the feeling of emptiness. An unimaginable sense of sorrow and also anger rippled from every quarter and it has been humbling to read of Timothy’s conciliatory words and comments relating to the perpetrators of this obscene crime. R Martinez
The book is a fascinating description of the events leading to the tragic fate of Lord Mountbatten at the hands of the IRA. Athough sad,it makes interesting and enlightening reading. Duncan
Book that explains everything
It is a very moving and brilliantly written book that explains everthing. As a child I spent some summer holidays in Mullaghmore and Bundoran and the descriptions of Donegal are spot on. I love Donegal because of those hoildays: the beaches, the cow pats, the hedgerows, the purple and red flowers and the donkeys. All the good things that helped Tim Knatchbull’s recovery. M Rochford
Tears to my eyes
I remember this happening but was not really old enough to realise the emotions brought about by this brutal action. Stirring truth about the mindset of the IRA and the emotions of sorrow, despair and anger felt by all rightminded people. A Howden
Peaceful feelings for the future
This wonderful, insightful book shows us how to live peacefully with those who seek to do us harm and to go forward with a rewarding life. It is a personal story that awakens in us the knowledge that we can forgive our enemies and in this way help peace to come to our world. Hopefully this book written by Tim Knatchbull, From a Clear Blue Sky, will soon be available to purchase from American bookstores. Mary Mel French, former American Chief of Protocol
A powerful account by a remarkable person
I must say that at times I found this story so distressing I had to put it down, and couldn’t read it straight through without days in between. The author describes a journey back to Ireland, primarily with the intention of being able to say goodbye to his brother, who had been taken from him suddenly and brutally. The political questions are secondary to the emotional journey of confronting pain and loss, but the author open-mindedly and generously considers the political backdrop to the events he describes and the developments of later years, rejoicing in the end of the Troubles, and accepting the resulting prominence of certain controversial political figures.
What is most striking about the book is the author’s ability to return to childhood, and evoke the tenderness of the child while writing as a man in middle life, who has lived courageously and successfully, but not without a large amount of suffering. The two personae – that of the child and that of the adult – seem to exist concurrently as strong presences in the book. This ability to evoke the emotions of childhood is a quality which even great stylists cannot always do convincingly. The book is at times deeply painful to read, but it is a tender symphony of love to a lost brother, and a compassionate account by a man with extraordinary insight into himself and outreaching love for other people. It is also, in its way, a celebration of life and joy as well. All in all, a tough read, but I strongly recommend it. Mrs MC Williams
A great and eye-opening read
I really enjoyed this book from start to finish. I was a teenager in Ireland when Mountbatten’s boat was bombed and I remember the incident but my memory lacks clarity. This book helped to fill the gaps and was a pleasure to read. It mixed the historical account of the events with the personal and painful journey of Timothy Knatchbull and his family and made the reader feel included in their life story. V Dowley
A moving insight
I remembered the bombing and was shocked and saddened at the time. The story of the events that took place and the journey taken by the whole family is gripping and inspirational at the same time. A great read of real history. Colin G Blake
This is a beautifully written, deeply personal account of human tragedy. What impresses most is the author’s compassion and lack of bitterness throughout his search for answers. It is a text book study of grief- the grief of losing a twin, your other half. But it is also deeply interesting in terms of recent political and Royal history. CE Jones
A clear understanding
I only bought and read this book because of the moving interview I heard with the author on the radio, when I heard him speaking about the events of 1979 and the subsequent emotional and political fallout that followed, I felt compelled to read the full account. This is a story that all families can relate to and understand, its a story of love and honour bound with a full sense of history and patriotism. Knatchbull could easily have wallowed in self pity, but he doesn’t, instead he shows remarkable fortitude and strength in the intimate and caring style in which he has chosen to tell this most personal story. It’s a beautiful book, and the family at the core could be from almost any walk of life, at no point does the fact that Mountbatten, being the grandson of Queen Victoria make it difficult for the reader to identify with the family and character’s within. This is a history book, a story book, and a window looking into our structure and very being as a nation, its a book about ordinary people in an extraordinary situation. The book also gives us a remarkable insight to subjects that are usually misunderstood or misplaced, such as IRA activity and government policy and structure at the time of the so called “troubles” in Ireland. I was incredibly moved by some of the accounts within this book, it must have been so very difficult to have covered the more sensitive issues, but as I say, its not indulgent, just a thoroughly good read. K Thompson
A necessary book
This is an intelligent, brave and moving book which tells of the terrible event which shatters a family. Much more than an account of the violence committed on the day in question, the book charts the writer’s journey back to his childhood and the ways in which he eventually moves from grief to mourning for what he, his brother and his family have lost. The book is detailed in its research and incorporates Timothy Knatchbull’s journal entries as he comes, many years later, to revisit the places, people, and experiences of that time. Utterly compelling. Dr. B Jay
This well written book is shatteringly honest and endlessly page-turning. It’s so very readable, yet so often not an easy read and at times I had the uncomfortable feeling of peering through an open window upon a family’s most private moments. However, it was impossible to avert my eyes and I must thank Timothy Knatchbull for opening them just that bit little wider. I found myself googling so many aspects of this book, in the quest for further knowledge and found how very little I really know of Ireland’s troubled history.
This book encompasses so much, so seamlessly. Mountbatten’s colourful life in the navy and within the Royal Family. A beautifully written portrait of our Queen, quite moving and very human, that should dispel any remaining myth of her stiffness once and for all. The raw pain of losing loved ones so violently – and yet the beauty of family and friendships, united in their grief. This is a book about a murderous day on a sunny August Bank Holiday. Yet, much more than this, it is a book about survival. R Abrahams
A compelling read. Thoroughly recommended
An extremely interesting and readable book, which affected me on many levels, raised many questions, answered quite a few too, and moved me to tears in places.
Having missed much of the immediate aftermath of the bomb due to his own severe injuries, the author goes back many years to Ireland to try and come to terms with the loss of his family members, and in particular with the devastating loss of his identical twin brother. After reading the book, I was able, for the first time, to imagine what it must be like to have an identical twin – and to lose one. I should think that other identical twins would find this book of particular interest.
Perhaps because the author seems to have written the book as much for his own benefit as for anyone else’s, it has a very intimate feel. The events are considered in chronological order, from the viewpoint of the author himself and many witnesses, helpers, medical staff, family members and local people. The heart-warmingly non-judgmental attitude of the author and his parents that comes across in the book encourages the reader to view the situation in a rational and understanding way and makes it accessible for readers across all divides. Understanding and an attempt at forgiveness are very much on the agenda here, in a scenario where hatred and incomprehension would perhaps, sadly, be the norm.
It was interesting to catch a glimpse of the conflicting emotions and the complex situation that the local Irish people had to deal with at the time and to see how much the experience affected them even all these years later. I loved the footnotes and became addicted to flipping forwards to see which people the author had spoken to again at a later date and to gain as much background information as I could.
The book really took me back to that period and made me wonder why Irish history was not part of the author’s or our school curriculum when, even at my school in West Yorkshire we were evacuated at least once a week in those days due to bomb scares? Was this not more immediate and important than learning about Queen Anne chairs? I was also dismayed to discover what a large percentage of Catholic and Protestant children in Ireland are still being taught in separate schools.
To sum up, I found the book well written, easy to read, informative, emotionally engaging and thought provoking. CB
Excellent narrative of this horrifying historical tragedy. Numerous photographs that help tell the story as well. Wonderful book. AE Valentine
A humbling book and one that should be read
A book which shares personal, intimate feelings about a truly appalling time in the author’s life. It’s his way of endeavouring to come to terms with the tragedy which devastated his family as well as others in the small fishing village and beyond. A warm-hearted, intelligently-written acccount. It was a privilege to be drawn into the way the author dealt with his sorrow, and an insight into a family which also suffered from the troubles. C Cymru
From Tragedy, Acceptance and Resolution
For some reason American publishers have not yet deigned to make From a Clear Blue Sky readily available in the US. That’s a shame, because Timothy Knatchbull’s story will find resonance among many who have endured great tragedy.
Timothy Knatchbull had it all. Born in 1964 as the youngest child of an aristocratic semi-royal and very wealthy Lord and Lady, he was raised in a household of rambunctious, loving brothers and sisters. His grandfather was an authentic national hero, Earl Mountbatten of Burma, a dynamic individual who adored his grandchildren and loved to entertain them on long family vacations at his Irish castle. Best of all, Timothy had a twin, Nicholas Knatchbull, slightly older and slightly stronger, who was his best friend. They could never envision being separated for even a moment.
On August 27, 1979, 14 year old Timothy, his brother, parents, grandfather, and grandmother went lobstering in the waters near their Irish summer home. The IRA, seeking to shock the British with an attack on their monarch’s close relatives, blasted the boat out of the water. Timothy’s grandfather and grandmother were killed, his parents were seriously wounded, and he himself was badly hurt, eventually losing an eye. Worst of all for him, his brother Nicholas was killed, along with their friend Paul Maxwell, an Irish boat boy.
This book must have been enormously painful to write, as Timothy unflinchingly traces the events of that horrible day and his and his family’s long recuperations. But it must also have been enormously comforting and cathartic, as Timothy writes lovingly of the hard work his family, doctors and nurses, therapists, and total strangers went to, to comfort and help him. Some of the most appealing parts of the book describe the kindnesses of Timothy’s royal relatives, including the Queen herself and the Prince of Wales, making it an excellent rebuttal to the many charges of coldness and heartlessness that have been made against the Windsors. At the end we see Timothy, happily married and the father of children who remind him of his brother.
We have all had far more exposure to political terrorism than we deserve in recent years. It is comforting and reassuring to be reminded that it is possible for even the most horrific of bodily and spiritual injuries to heal John D Cofield