Keeper : A Book About Memory, Identity, Isolation, Wordsworth and Cake ...
Can our personalities be taken away from us? Are memory and identity mutually dependent? What exactly is the soul? Three years ago, Andrea Gillies, a writer and mother of three, took on the care of her mother-in-law Nancy, who was in the middle stages of Alzheimer's disease. This newly extended family moved to a big Victorian house on a headland in the far, far north of Scotland, where the author failed to write a novel and Nancy, her disease accelerated by change, began to move out of the rational world and into dementia's alternative reality. This book is a journal of life in this wild location, in which Gillies tracks Nancy's unravelling grasp on everything that we think of as ordinary, and interleaves her own brilliantly cogent investigations into the way Alzheimer's works. For the family at the centre of this drama, the learning curve was steeper and more interesting than anyone could have imagined.
- Paperback | 320 pages
- 131 x 197 x 27mm | 350g
- 20 May 2010
- Short Books Ltd
- London, United Kingdom
"Andrea Gillies's account of living with Alzheimer's is the perfect fusion of narrative with enough memorable science not to choke you." "It's a fantastic book - down to earth and darkly comic in places. The judges found it compelling." Jo Brand "A wonderful book honest, upsetting, tender, sometimes angry, often funny which takes us on a journey into dementia and explores what it means to be human." Deborah Moggach "Terrific, terrifying, absolutely powerful in every choice of word, every sentence... completely unflinching" Quentin Cooper "This is not another guide to be added to the depressing pile by the bedside for those who are confronting the decline of a relative. It is as much an exploration of memory, its loss and the subsequent erosion of personality, as a chronicle of the destructive chaos that the onset of Alzheimer's unleashes on the extended family... Somehow, despite the territory, Gillies manages to steer the book away from misery lit and beneath the profoundly bleak narrative runs a stream of grim humour. Most powerful, however, is Nancy's own voice, carefully recorded by Gillies in nightly diary entries, a voice that is at times cantankerous, bewildered and defiant. Reading these monologues, we get very close to understanding what it feels like to experience this illness... What makes this book so unexpected is the honesty with which Gillies records the catastrophic consequences of this well-intentioned act." Amelia Gentleman, The Guardian "Terrific, terrifying, absolutely powerful in every choice of word, every sentence... completely unflinching" Quentin Cooper
About Andrea Gillies
Andrea Gillies has had a diverse career, encompassing writing, publicity work, the editorship of the Good Beer Guide, travel and reference book editing, and writing a drinks column for Scotland on Sunday newspaper. She's spent most of the last 18 years raising children, and latterly, living in a mansion on a remote peninsula in northern Scotland.
Our customer reviews
'In this account of caring for her mother-in-law, Andrea Gillies avoids all the pitfalls of the misery memoir. It's a vivid, honest, perceptive first hand report but more than that, an exploration of the role of memory in identity. At times, shocking, funny, informative and provocative, it is undoubtedly a compelling read. Never depressing yet with challenging insights into old age and senility, it raises sharp questions about the caring for those growing numbers who can no longer be independent. It is a profound contemplation through science, political critique and deeply felt emotion of one of the looming problems of the 21st Century.' The Orwell Prize is Britain's most prestigious prize for political writing. The Book Prize judges for 2010 were Jonathan Heawood (director, English PEN), Andrew Holgate (literary editor, Sunday Times) and Francine Stock (writer and broadcaster).show moreby The Orwell Prize