The Man Who Lost His Language

The Man Who Lost His Language

3.72 (36 ratings by Goodreads)
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Sir John Hale is one of the worlds foremost renaissance historians whose book "The Civilization of Europe in the Renaissance" (1993) won The Royal Society of Literature's Heinemann Award and the International Silver Pen. Soon after delivering the second draft of his text, Hale had a stroke that deprived him of the power of speech. His wife Shelia Hale set out to find out what had happened and how John might be brought back to normal as far as possible. This book combines a detailed account of dysphasia and what he can tell us about language with a personal account of John and Shelia's own more

Product details

  • Paperback | 320 pages
  • 142 x 216 x 32mm | 539.77g
  • Penguin Books Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • 20 b&w photographs and illustrations, notes, bibliography
  • 0140284958
  • 9780140284959

About Sheila Hale

Sheila Hale is a distinguished travel writer and journalist and author of guides to Florence and Tuscany, Venice and Verona. She has written for a number of American and British newspapers and magazines including The New York Times, the Observer, the Times Literary Supplement, and the London Review of more

Review quote

"When Sheila Hale's husband John suffered a stroke that left him unable to walk, write or speak normally, she embarked on a battle to restore him to normal life. This book shows how she followed every medical trail... and at the same time maintained an extraordinary loving intimacy with him. She tells their joint story with rare intelligence and feeling" Claire Tomalin; "An extraordinary achievement: a moving account of an intimate relationship, and a rigorous investigation into the most up-to-date medical theories and treatments of a mysterious affliction. It raises all kinds of questions about language, communication and the brain. Most remarkable, it's full of jokes and surprises" Anthony Sampsonshow more

Review Text

Sir John Hale was a world-renowned historian of the Renaissance, an erudite and delightful man with an extraordinary capacity for knowledge and a vast circle of friends. But in July 1992, his wife Sheila heard a crash from his study and found him lying on the floor, smiling vacantly and uttering the same phrase over and over again: 'da woahs, da woahs'. He had suffered a catastrophic stroke, and the doctors said he would probably never speak or walk again. This exceptional book is Sheila Hale's record of the years that followed, as she fought to save John from being consigned to the dark recesses of the NHS and help him regain his physical and mental faculties - particularly his language. It's a book with two interwoven threads. The first and last sections cover the tale of John's painfully slow recovery. Memoirs about serious illness are common these days, but this one stands out for the honesty, dedication and beautiful writing of its author. The parts describing the dreadful treatment John receives at the hands of the NHS (one consultant tells Sheila to put him in a home and forget about him) inspire murderous rage in the reader; elsewhere, the descriptions of John's ability to communicate wordlessly and mimic the voices of the people he meets are vivid and touching. But perhaps the most gripping part of this enormously readable book is that in which Sheila Hale discusses the different varieties of aphasia - inability to form language - and their neurological base. We usually think of language as a single distinct capacity, but this could not be more wrong. John Hale could write down the names of painters whose pictures he was shown but not say them; he could recognize the most abstruse items of vocabulary and put them into a sentence, but he could not understand the meaning of a question beginning 'why' or 'what'. Later Hale introduces us to an aphasic who could sing but not speak, one who could say the name of objects put in his left hand but not in his right, one whose language cortex had been cut off from the rest of her brain so she could repeat sentences perfectly but had no idea of their meaning. The understanding of the different areas of the brain and their relationship to language use has progressed slowly over the years, but neurologists are still in the dark about much of it, and speech therapy dealing with neurological rather than physical problems is in its infancy. This book leads the reader into a little-known and fascinating science which is central to our understanding of ourselves as human beings. It is both an absorbing introduction to aphasia and a deeply moving testimony to the power of human love and devotion. (Kirkus UK)show more

Rating details

36 ratings
3.72 out of 5 stars
5 25% (9)
4 28% (10)
3 42% (15)
2 6% (2)
1 0% (0)
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