We were heartbroken at YOU magazine to learn that our beloved colleague Kate Figes passed away on Saturday 7 December. For more than 20 years, she has been YOU’s excellent books editor. As a voracious reader and a brilliant author of several highly acclaimed books, including Life After Birth and her latest, On Smaller Dogs and Larger Life Questions, there was no one more perfect for the role.
I only knew Kate for around two of those years; we met when I became editor of this magazine in early 2018. It tells you everything you need to know about this vivacious, energetic and razor-sharp woman that she quickly became someone I will never forget. Kate wholeheartedly embraced my vision for the magazine. When every week so many of you write to tell me how deeply affecting our stories are – such as our recent exclusive interview with Nadiya Hussain – so much is owed to Kate, who often starts the groundwork to get them. I will always be grateful for her support in striving to make Youthe best magazine possible.
When we met, Kate had already faced a year of coming to terms with her incurable cancer diagnosis. I was worried about the demands of the job weakening her, but I soon saw that the opposite was true. Sourcing brilliant books, coaxing an exclusive personal piece out of notoriously private authors (getting Jodi Picoult to write for us was a particular triumph), nurturing relationships with every key publisher in the country (and Kate’s perfect mix of steel and charm was a true secret weapon for YOU) – these activities did more than sustain Kate, they energised her. It was clear that she was determined to stick two fingers up to cancer to the very end. And so she did.
Cancer is cruel and I know that Kate had more than her fair share of dark days with it. But her matter-of-fact attitude created a space where we could talk honestly about it; she could not abide walking on eggshells around the subject. Instead, she would rock up to my office in a platinum wig and demand I laugh with her about how ‘ridiculous’ she looked. Actually, I could not agree. She looked like she’d just stepped out of a Mayfair salon, but telling her that just made her roar with laughter. That laugh. She never lost it and she, more than anyone I know, has taught me that your worst days imaginable can still be punctuated with moments of joy. And despite everything she was dealing with, on those regular work meetings in my office it was she who cheered me. Kate would hate any idea that all cancer patients must smile through the adversity. But the fact is, she really did. Mere days before her passing, she was still editing book extracts, determined to do the thing she loved most of all for as long as she possibly could.
I realise this is sad news at what is supposed to be a time of joy, in the days before Christmas. But Kate’s family – her husband Christoph and daughters Eleanor and Grace – note that she wanted her passing to be a celebration of her life and I wanted to do that, in my small way, on this page. To read more of her work, do visit katefiges.co.uk.
In a moving piece Kate wrote for our 24 November issue, she said, ‘It has been a surprising privilege to discover just how loved I am.’ Kate, I have to say I really don’t think you knew the half of it.