Tag Archives: dementia

#Bookreview ‘File under Fear’ by Geraldine Wall #genealogy #mystery

Geraldine WallSecond in the series about probate researcher turned genealogy detective Anna Ames, File Under Fear by Geraldine Wall takes off running from where the previous book left off. This is a well-written, page-turning series that combines family history, crime, family and secrets. But for me, the touchstone that makes it special is the sub-plot of Anna’s home life and her husband Harry’s dementia. If you haven’t read book one in the series, I suggest you start there to see the full emotional depth.

Anna’s new contract sounds boring: to write a business report on Draycotts, the company which makes Drakes lurid orange and green drink, analysing how the family members coordinate together to run a successful business. But there is a secret element to her contract, to locate a missing person for CEO Gerald Draycott. This case sees Anna physically and emotionally intimidated and encompasses bullying, illegal smuggling and rape. An intense story with red herrings and wrong assumptions made about family members, the actual crimes being committed and in which Anna questions who to trust. Backing her up are her very likeable family and the multi-talented more-than-workmate Steve. Some of the resolutions fall into place a little conveniently at the fast-paced ending, but this is a satisfying tale.

What makes this series so different, and adds the emotional depth in spades, is Harry’s illness and how the family and friends cope. Sometimes they struggle but ultimately they manage the reality of their life with compassion, humour and love. This series is maturing nicely.
Read my review of the first in the series, File under Family.

If you like this, try:-
Run’ by Ann Patchett
Shadow Baby’ by Margaret Forster
Deadly Descent’ by Charlotte Hinger

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
FILE UNDER FEAR by Geraldine Wall #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-3Ue via @SandraDanby

Book review: Somewhere Inside of Happy

Anna McPartlinYet again, Irish author Anna McPartlin tackles difficult issues. Grief – as in the superb The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes – dementia and homophobia. And there is laughter and tears. It is a thoughtful book with strongly drawn characters, Irish humour and a fair amount of ripe language. It is the story of Maisie Bean, a single mother who has fought bravely to escape a violent husband and raise her two children, Jeremy and Valerie. The story starts, on January 1, 1995, when Jeremy disappears.

Ever since his mother found the strength to leave her abusive husband, Jeremy has been the man of the family. He has been responsible, thoughtful, helpful, caring for his grandmother Bridie who suffers from dementia, keeping an eye on his younger sister Valerie. In doing so he has repressed who he is because he doesn’t really understand who he is, all he knows is that he is different.

Somewhere Inside of Happy is an examination of generalisations, assumptions and misunderstandings, how the crowd dynamic and a troublesome media can turn a whisper into fact. How a community looks the other way whilst a drug-addict father neglects his son and how gays are referred to as ‘queer’ and worse. The mirror held up to society is not a pretty one. It is a reminder to us all to be more respectful of others, to stop ourselves being unfair and condemnatory about things we do not understand. The setting is Ireland in the Nineties, not that long ago. The title of the book is actually a place within Jeremy, to where he retreats, curled up, when the outside world gets too much.

If I have one criticism, it is the Prologue set twenty years after the main story. It tells us so many things I would expect to discover through reading the book.

My favourite character? Bridie. She is drawn with such affection, a ‘game old bird’ dancing with her sixteen-year-old grandson.

Read more about Anna McPartlin’s other books at her website.
Read my review of The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes.

If you like this, try these other novels set in Ireland:-
‘The Little Red Chairs’ by Edna O’Brien
‘Nora Webster’ by Colm Tóibín
‘Butterfly Barn’ by Karen Power

‘Somewhere Inside of Happy’ by Anna McPartlin [UK: Black Swan] Buy here

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Love + ignorance: SOMEWHERE INSIDE OF HAPPY by @annamcpartlin http://wp.me/p5gEM4-21A #bookreview by @SandraDanby

A poem to read in the bath… ‘Forgetfulness’

The two first lines of this Hart Crane poem [below] grabbed me, will grab anyone in their middle years who starts to forget the odd thing, will grab anyone who has watched by as a loved on is taken by dementia.

[photo: poetryfoundation.org]

[photo: poetryfoundation.org]

Forgetfulness is like a song
That, freed from beat and measure, wanders.
Forgetfulness is like a bird whose wings are reconciled.
Outspread and motionless, –
A bird that coasts the wind unwearyingly.

Forgetfulness is rain at night,
Or an old house in a forest, – or a child.
Forgetfulness is white, – white as a blasted tree,
And it may stun the Sybil into prophecy,
Or bury the Gods.

I can remember much forgetfulness.

This is the first Crane poem I read, found in an anthology. He committed suicide in 1932 at the age of 32, but that hasn’t stopped him being hailed as ‘influential’. His most ambitious work is The Bridge, an epic poem described as being similar to TW Eliot’s The Waste Land.

Hart Crane


The Complete Poems of Hart Crane’ by Hart Crane [Liveright] 

Read these other excerpts and find a new poet to love:-
‘Cloughton Wyke I’ by John Wedgwood Clarke
‘Runaways’ by Daniela Nunnari
‘Lost Acres’ by Robert Graves

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
A #poem to read in the bath: ‘Forgetfulness’ by Hart Crane http://wp.me/p5gEM4-1Ma via @SandraDanby


Book review: Elizabeth is Missing

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey 31-5-14Can there be a more unreliable narrator than an 81-year old woman with dementia?

Maud lives on her own, she has carers visiting, they leave prepared food for her and tell her not to use the cooker. But she does love toast. There is a rebelliousness about Maud which immediately made me connect with her. She reminded me of my mother, who suffered from dementia. I was impressed with the way Maud’s condition is portrayed, in convincing detail, slowly deteriorating as the story progresses. Maud writes herself notes, as memory prompts, and keeps them in her pockets and around the house. The note she re-reads most often is ‘Elizabeth is missing’. Elizabeth is Maud’s friend, and she is not at her house. The story has a cyclical motion as Maud finds the note, goes out to hunt for Elizabeth, and then is told by someone that Elisabeth is not missing, that she is fine. And then Maud finds the note again, and the cycle re-starts.

Interwoven with Maud’s search for Elizabeth, is a narrative strand set in 1946 when she lives with her parents and lodger Douglas. People are displaced as a population comes to terms with the end of the conflict, a poor economy, returning soldiers who are not the husbands they were when they went away to fight. Post-war rationing makes meals difficult, people grow vegetables, forage for fruit, make their own clothes. Maud’s older sister Sukey is good at dressmaking and she gives Maud items to wear. The sisters are close. And then Sukey disappears, no-one knows where she has gone, including her husband Frank.

I am a little unsure how a reader will react if they have no experience of dementia. Maud’s thought processes are, by the nature of her illness, repetitive. But her memories are key to understanding the mystery of Sukey’s disappearance. You, I, the reader, is the detective. It is up to us to sift through the clues, keeping them and discarding them.

In the background, throughout the novel, is the attitude of people towards dementia sufferers. The impatience, the lack of empathy, the unwillingness to understand someone obviously not in their full senses, and also the kindness, gentleness, the fondness, the helpfulness of strangers.

For example the police sergeant who repeatedly takes down the information when Maud reports Elizabeth as missing.
“‘Same as usual?’ he says, his voice sounding metallic through the speakers.
‘Usual?’ I say.
‘Elizabeth, is it?’ He nods, as if encouraging me to say a line in a play.
‘Elizabeth, yes,’ I say, amazed. Of course, that’s what I’ve come for. I’ve come for her.”

It is a nice touch that he appears at the end of the story, closing the circle.

This is the debut novel by Emma Healey [below] and was the talking point amongst the book world at the 2013 London Book Fair. I had heard a lot about it, and was not disappointed. I devoured this book, like cake.

[photo: curtisbrown.co.uk]

[photo: curtisbrown.co.uk]

Click here for Emma Healey’s website.
Connect with Emma Healey on Facebook here.
To learn more about dementia, visit the website of the Alzheimer’s Association.
‘Elizabeth is Missing’ by Emma Healey [pub. in the UK on June 5, 2014 by Viking Books]