The Restless Wave – Helen Belleny

Twice married to the Scottish artist John Bellany, his widow Helen appeared at this year’s Edinburgh Book Festival in conversation with Richard Holloway to read from and promote her book “The Restless Wave”.

It is a well written and very loving account of the long and tumultuous years she and John spent together and apart.

He was a genius, she says simply, and as such, the usual rules of mundane living did not apply. They met as fellow students at Edinburgh Art College and moved to London when John gained a place at the Royal College of Art.

Young, penniless and very soon parents, their life in London was hardly easy, but John‘s talent was flourishing in the bohemian metropolitan souroundings. So much so that Helen persuaded John to turn down a chance to return to lecture at Edinburgh Art College fearing that an easy lifestyle might for him be stifling.

Her decision rebounded, however, as caring for three children meant that more and more she was not part of John‘s hard-drinking social life. In 1974 they separated, and for eleven years contact was only through the children. John married again, a difficult marriage fuelled by alcohol and bouts of depression.

How they got back together and eventually remarried is very lovingly told in a key passage of the book read out by Helen. The Epilogue to the book was also read out, and is a love letter written by Helen to John after his death. It’s a moving tribute to a tumultuous life, a life lived passionately at full tilt.

A packed and appreciative audience spilled out into an extremely long signing queue – so long I haven’t got my copy yet. This is certainly a must read for all those who admire Bellany‘s work and who know and remember the era so vividly evoked.

The Restless Wave is published by Sandstone Press at £19.99

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