Unlike John Bayley’s lyrical memoir of his wife, author Iris Murdoch, which glosses over the degradation of Alzheimer’s, Gillies charts every step into misery and dementia – with compassion but without sentimentality or self-pity.
Her account is particularly heroic because in volunteering to care for her mother-in-law she took on the additional burden of a disabled father-in-law.
The statistics Gillies quotes are chilling.
In 2009 there were about 24 million dementia sufferers across the globe, with 80 million forecast for 2040.
She also addresses the myth that Alzheimer’s victims are happy and, citing Iris Murdoch, corrects the misconception that people with keen, active brains are immune.
Based on unedited diaries, this beautifully written and emotionally raw account captures the confusion and terror of losing one’s mind, memories and sense of self, and the self-sacrifice demanded of a full-time carer.
Keeper by Andrea Gillies
Short Books, R139,95