Shabby Sunday: Death Not Be Proud by John Gunther – 1965


Shabby Sunday Meme

I have a lot of old vintage books and one of my plans when I first started blogging was to do a post every week or so that shared one of my cherished vintage books. Then I thought that maybe there might be other book bloggers out there that have some vintage books, heirlooms, or maybe some old books from childhood that they might want to share. I decided to start a weekly meme titled ‘Shabby Sunday’ for those who would like to participate and share some of their old vintage books. Do you have some shabby books you’d like to share? Please feel free to participate. Feel free to use the picture I’ve provided if you’d like to. If you decide to do this meme, please consider linking back to me so that I can see the book you’re sharing.

Today’s shabby share is:

Death Be Not Proud

 Blurb: Death Be Not Proud chronicles Johnny Gunther’s gallant struggle against the malignant brain tumor that killed him at the age of seventeen. The book opens with his father’s fond, vivid portrait of his son – a young man of extraordinary intellectual promise, who excelled at physics, math, and chess, but was also an active, good-hearted, and fun-loving kid. But the heart of the book is a description of the agonized months during which Gunther and his former wife Frances try everything in their power to halt the spread of Johnny’s cancer and to make him as happy and comfortable as possible. In the last months of his life, Johnny strove hard to complete his high school studies. The scene of his graduation ceremony from Deerfield Academy is one of the most powerful – and heartbreaking – in the entire book. Johnny maintained his courage, wit and quiet friendliness up to the end of his life. He died on June 30, 1947, less than a month after graduating from Deerfield.

My Thoughts:

This isn’t a book I normally pick up, but I purchased it in a box of books from a church sale years ago, and after going through some of these books recently, it caught my attention. I love reading memoirs, but not so much when it’s a story about a child with cancer. I took a chance and continued reading because I’d already read the blurb and knew what to expect. If you plan to read this book, you may want to skip my review altogether. The edition I’m reviewing is from 1965.

In the beginning of the book, John Gunther writes about his son Johnny and describes him as a happy child who loves to spend time with his parents when he’s not in school. Not only is he a happy and active child, but he’s extremely intelligent and loves school. When he returns home in 1946 for a break, he begins to have some strange symptoms and eventually is diagnosed with a brain tumor. Of course, this was back in a day before there were better treatments for cancer like there are now, and some of the treatments that Johnny undertakes are unorthodox. In fact, this is the first book I’ve read that documents a patient’s story after attempting Dr. Gerson’s methods for battling cancer.

The book is written in two parts. In the first part, the reader learns about Johnny, his diagnosis and some of his treatments. This was definitely a difficult part for me to finish. It’s heart-wrenching, but Johnny was so strong. His parents are with him constantly and move mountains to find him the best treatments possible. They continually search for a cure.

The second part contains a short diary that Johnny wrote and also letters, many from before his diagnosis. I would’ve liked to read the letters from before his diagnosis first, before reading Part 1, but this isn’t the way the book is organized. The final pages in the book contain a note from Johnny’s mother, Frances. In the note, she discusses the many questions you ask with the impending death of a child and there’s a statement that we all hear too often. A statement that reminds us we are never guaranteed any exact measure of time.

“Yet at the end of them all, when one has put away all the books, and all the words, when one is alone with oneself, when one is alone with God, what is left in one’s heart? Just this: I wish we had loved Johnny more.”  

Overall, even with all the agonizing parts of the story, I’m glad I finished the book. In my opinion, it’s written very well. I’d recommend it to anyone who likes to read memoirs.







Here is the information from a newer version on Amazon:

  • Series: Perennial Classics
  • Paperback: 205 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics (August 5, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060929898
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060929893

Add it on Goodreads or find it at the following sites below:

Other blogs who have participated in Shabby Sunday:

Nicky@ An Introverted Bookworm


Claire@ Brizzle Lass Books


Thanks for visiting Shabby Sunday! Do you have any vintage books you’d like to share? Please feel free to comment below or participate in Shabby Sunday if you’d like to!


5 thoughts on “Shabby Sunday: Death Not Be Proud by John Gunther – 1965

  1. starjustin

    It’s never an easy process to be able to work through the sorrow and grief one goes through with the loss of a loved one. Even as close as the parents were to their son, the mom still feels the emptiness and loss with the inability to speak with her son just one more time. Sounds like a very difficult read. Great post Jen!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t think this is one that I will read. Every time I read something where someone has cancer or is in ICU or life support is turned off, I relive what we went through with my darling Ray. It is so hard. I have a handle on my grief (I think) but it still sneaks up on me. Excellent review though.


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