The British literary sensation—“the most startling, discomforting, complicated, ungovernable, hilarious and heart-rending of memoirs ” (The Telegraph)—the story of a celebrated writer’s sudden descent into blindness, and of the redemptive journey into the past that her loss of sight sets in motion. Candia McWilliam, whose novels A Case of Knives, A Little Stranger, and Debatable Land made her a reader favorite throughout the United Kingdom and around the world, here breaks her decade-long silence with a searing, intimate memoir that fans of Lorna Sage’s Bad Blood, Mary Karr’s Lit, and Diana Athill’s Somewhere Toward the End will agree “cements her status as one of our most important literary writers beyond question” (Financial Times).
Imagine your world abruptly shrouded in darkness, not because there's something wrong with your vision, but because your eyelids cannot stay open. This is what happened to Scottish writer McWilliam (A Case of Knives) at the age of 50. The condition is called blepharospasm and it's devastating, especially to McWilliam, a life-long reader, who still buys books "to have them handy by me, to have their breath in my air," though she can no longer read them. McWilliam believes that "by writing about my blindness and the life that has brought it, I might lift it from my eyes." The resulting memoir sparkles with vivid descriptions, of her native Scotland and the idyllic island of Colonsay, of the many people in her life, and of the tragedies that punctuate it a mother who committed suicide at the age of 36, two failed marriages, a long bout of alcoholism, crippling self-doubt, and finally, blindness. McWilliam's love of language is evident throughout. She is able to get at the essence of things in one scintillating sentence, as when she writes of her estranged architectural historian father: "He engaged with houses, less so with home." The book is an astonishingly beautiful portrait of what the world looks like when you can no longer see it.