19 February 2012

What to Look for in Winter; Candia McWilliam

What to Look for in Winter: A Memoir in BlindnessWhat to Look for in Winter: A Memoir in Blindness by Candia McWilliam
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was interested to read this for two reasons: first, because of all my senses, losing my sight would be (I think) the worst and second, because she lost her sight thanks to a blethorspasm, which my paternal grandmother suffered from for the last years of her life (she was in the clinical trials for Botox, which started out as a medical tool before becoming the means for Real Housewives and starlets to look as stupid and wooden as they act). What a surprise to learn that her blindness forms a very minor part of this memoir.

Ms. McWilliam has definitely "swallowed a dictionary" - reading this without one next to you is only for the very well read, the highly vocabularied or the brave. Words like churlishly, impastoed, fusty and occludes litter the text (those were chosen at random by opening the book on four pages and looking). She is also a premiere name dropper - one can see why people kept telling her to write her memoir. She's friends with writers like Julian Barnes and Christopher Hitchens, celebrities like Tamasin Day-Lewis, almost family to the Baron of Strancona and Mont Royal, once married to the Earl of Portsmouth.

The first two thirds of this memoir have little in the way of self-reflection as she takes readers from her Edinburgh childhood through her blindness. The last third has more reflection and more about the blindness (the Botox doesn't work and she had a radical, new operation to try to cure the problem) but there's little about how she copes with this disability.

Rambling, moving back and forth in time, these snippets are chatty and engaging. This memoir is a non-linear one, which may annoy or confuse readers.

ARC provided by publisher.

1 comment:

  1. Hm. Interesting review. The vocabulary bit appeals to me, but non-linear doesn't. I don't think I'm patient enough. I may take a look at the style on Amazon, though.