WORKS OF FICTION ABOUT DEMENTIA
by Lisa Genova (2007)
I chose to read this book because it had got so much media attention, and had been made into a film, and I thought I should have an opinion of it as an aspiring researcher in dementia research. This is another one I listened to as an audio book, read by the author (this is what happens when you commute between two towns that are 6-hours apart on a regular basis).
I genuinely enjoyed this book. Genova constructed this story from years of research about what it is like to live with dementia, so it has a real sense of authenticity about it. I read somewhere that Genova was in frequent contact with Christine Bryden (discussed above) while writing this book, which I found really interesting.
The main character in this book is Alice Howland, a linguistics expert and cognitive psychology professor at Harvard. The story tells of her experiences: of developing the signs of dementia, of the denial she experienced about her symptoms, of receiving a diagnosis of younger onset dementia, of changes in the way she saw herself and influences on her relationships with her 3 children and her husband.
There has been some backlash from critics, saying that the book (and the film adaptation of it) perpetuates the myth that dementia is tragic only when the person affected is young and 'successful'. I didn't really share this concern, as I didn't think that it was supposed to be representative of anyone in particular, just an interesting story.
The most interesting parts for me were:
1. The representation of disorientation as an early symptom. I felt that they way this was presented was really clever, and helped me to understand better what this might feel like.
2. The idea that people with dementia need someone without dementia to verify their accounts. In this book, the doctor asks Alice to have someone accompany her to their appointments, to 'verify' her accounts of what she had been experiencing with regards to her memory. This aligns really closely with what I have been reading about with regards to the credibility of what people with dementia have to say about their experience, and provides a really nice reflection on how this might feel for someone with dementia (i.e., Alice was NOT HAPPY about it).
This book has been adapted to a movie, 'Still Alice' (released in 2014), starring Julianne Moore as 'Alice' (as with 'Iris', discussed above, I haven't yet seen the film but will let you know what I think when I finally get around to watching it).
Please feel free contact me with recommendations! I am always looking for new books to add to the collection!
Reviews to come...