Atwood's partner Graeme Gibson, novelist and conservationist, dead at 85

Canadian writer Graeme Gibson

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Canadian writer Graeme Gibson in Vincennes, France in 2014

Canadian novelist and conservationist Graeme Gibson, the long-time partner of author Margaret Atwood, has died at the age of 85.

The dedicated naturalist and bird watcher was known for The Bedside Book of Birds, a 2005 collection of writings, drawings and paintings.

Atwood said she was “devastated” by the loss but happy her partner had avoided declining “into further dementia”.

The couple had lived together in Toronto for the past several decades.

Gibson was “our beloved father, grandfather and spouse, but we are happy that he achieved the kind of swift exit he wanted and avoided the decline into further dementia that he feared”, Atwood said.

“He had a lovely last few weeks and he went out on a high, surrounded by love, friendship and appreciation. We are grateful for his wise, ethical and committed life.”

Atwood is currently promoting the release of her sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, her 1985 novel which has also been turned into a TV series.

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Media captionMargaret Atwood: The Handmaid’s Tale has got “a lot closer to reality”

Born in Canada in 1934, Gibson wrote four novels, including Five Legs, published in 1969, and Perpetual Motion, published in 1982. He was a long-time champion of Canadian writing and authors, and a founding member of both the Writers’ Trust of Canada and the Writers’ Union of Canada.

Penguin Random House Canada, which published some of Gibson’s books, including The Bedside Book of Birds and its 2009 companion The Bedside Book of Beasts, said they were “deeply saddened by the death of such a beloved and distinguished author”.

“We are grateful for that superlative legacy, one that will continue to flourish, and also grateful for our own experiences working with Graeme: a true gentleman, whose gracious, elegant, and witty manner touched all who knew him.”

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