Richard Goodkin Mourning Light

On the left is a cover image of the new novel Mourning Light and on the right is a headshot of author Richard Goodkin in a plaid shirt with a moustache.

Richard Goodkin wrote the first draft of what would become his new novel, “Mourning Light,” over the course of a few months back in 1993. For the University of Wisconsin–Madison French professor, working on the novel was a way of processing some difficult personal emotions surrounding the loss of his partner two years earlier — and so he wrote a fictionalized story about a UW–Madison professor who loses his partner during the early years of the AIDS epidemic. Now, three decades and countless drafts later, the semi-autobiographical love story will be published by the University of Wisconsin Press and celebrated with a launch event at Room of One’s Own bookstore on July 18.

“The process of writing the novel was a rollercoaster. … There were years where the manuscript lay fallow,” says Goodkin, who has also published a historical novel written in French and five monographs on 17th, 19th and 20th-century French literature — nothing so personal as “Mourning Light” (originally titled “Who Killed Anthony?”), half of which is set in Madison and rich with details that locals will recognize and appreciate. And although Goodkin’s exploration of grief through the novel’s premise feels highly personal, that’s where the parallels stop in this lovely, slim novel that is anchored by a psychological, grief-driven, love-triangle mystery influenced by Daphne du Maurier’s seminal book, “Rebecca.”