Graeme Gibson, partner of Margaret Atwood, dies in London during Testaments book tour

Telegraph Reporters
Graeme Gibson and Margaret Atwood in December 2017 - Hulton Archive

Graeme Gibson, a Canadian novelist and conservationist and the longtime partner of Margaret Atwood, died in a London hospital on Wednesday. He was 85.

Doubleday, the imprint that has published both Gibson and Atwood, announced Gibson's death. He had been suffering from dementia.

“We are devastated by the loss of Graeme, 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.”

On Twitter, Atwood thanked both the staff of the Langham Hotel, “who were so kind and helpful” and “all at [University College Hospital] who were so kind, helpful and respectful, and took such good care. The family appreciates it very much.”

Gibson was in London, rather than the couple’s home of Toronto, as he was accompanying Atwood in promoting her new novel, The Testaments. On Tuesday, it was announced that the book had sold more than 103,000 copies in the UK during its first week on sale, more than double the total of any other hardback fiction title so far in 2019. On Tuesday, it was announced that Atwood would be postponing a scheduled event in Montreal due to “an unforeseen family illness.”

Graeme Gibson in 1982, when his novel Perpetual Motion was published Credit:  Toronto Star

Gibson began seeing Atwood in the 1970s and decades lived with her for decades. Their mutual devotion and his support of her career led one journalist to state “Every woman writer should be married to Graeme Gibson,” an expression Atwood used for a T-shirt.

“He thought it was funny,” Atwood told The Telegraph in 2013. “He’s pretty good – he mostly just keeps out of the way. And I don’t show him my books before they’re in print. I recommend it. Supposing your spouse doesn’t like your work – then you’re in trouble.”

Known early in his career for his modernist writing style, he published novels such as Five Legs and Perpetual Motion, and he was active with numerous organizations, whether as president of PEN Canada or serving on the council of the World Wildlife Fund Canada. His well-regarded nonfiction book Eleven Canadian Novelists included interviews with Atwood and Nobel laureate Alice Munro.

He had two sons with Shirley Gibson, whom he divorced in the early 1970s, and a daughter with Atwood.