Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey
This account of a woman becoming afflicted by, and then having to live with extreme photosensitivity is completely harrowing, but suffused with dark humour. The author was enjoying life and had met the love of her life when she started to get burning sensations on her skin after screen-use and sun exposure, Soon it gets worse, and Anna ends up increasingly living in a completely darkened spare bedroom in Pete’s house.
“My love has saved me. […] and it slices me open with guilt. For I am creating two shadow lives, where there need only be one. I am sucking the light from Pete’s life, leaving him a twilit, liminal creature, single yet not single, who at social events sits alone among the couples, with a strange absent presence always by his side.
I argue with myself during my long periods alone. […] Should I leave him?
[…] I know I cannot leave him, am incapable of leaving him, unless he asks me to go.
And he has not asked me.
And that is the miracle which I live with, every day. (p12/13)
Pete is a saint. Luckily, Anna’s condition goes into partial remission, and they are able to have a sort of twilight life together one summer, but stepping outside just a few minutes early, or under strong streetlights will send Anna back to her dark room for days at a time. Her predicament is made worse by the fact that at her worst, she can’t go to hospital – the photosensitivity specialists can’t cope with her extreme need to exclude all light – they can’t or won’t come to her. She is also aware that she can’t get pregnant.
Audiobooks save her from the darkest thoughts during her months of darkness; music is too emotional. In remission, writing and twilight gardening are helpful as is a converted caravan so they can go out. The cause of Anna’s condition remains undiagnosed, new medications are hit and miss – the only real treatment is darkness. She has such courage and hope. This book was a powerful read, and I sincerely hope that things will improve for its author. (8.5/10)
Source: Own copy. Bloomsbury paperback, 256 pages. BUY from Amazon
A Crime in Holland by Georges Simenon
Translated by Sîan Reynolds
It’s a while since I read a Maigret novel. I missed the recent installment on the telly with Rowan Atkinson at Christmas, so picked up the next one on my pile in the Penguin reissues.
Maigret is sent to a small town in Holland to support a French professor who was giving a lecture there, after which a member of the audience was murdered. Maigret is hampered by his lack of Dutch and there are few French-speakers apart from the Professor whom Maigret tries to ignore, (especially as the Professor believes it would be in the town police’s interests to say the murderer was an itinerant seaman rather than one of their own upstanding folk). Maigret is immune to this (on this occasion) and does a lot of observing in this novel: wandering the canals, seeing the crossing places, working out timings, and unearthing all the skeletons in the inhabitants’ closets. This leads to a Poirot-style re-enactment of the crime at the end.
This wasn’t the most complex of plots – I worked out (really *guessed*) whodunnit, but it was entertaining getting there. (7.5/10)
Source: Own copy.