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Metamorphosis: A Life in Pieces

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Radio and television appearances include Start the Week and The Culture Show , and he has also acted as the historical consultant on TV adaptations of Jane Eyre , Emma , Great Expectations , the BBC drama series Dickensian , and the feature film Enola Holmes . I found this upsetting as myself and others simply have to choices, the NHS is too streched and the only option is to muddle through a descent towards increased poverty and dissolution. A darkly comic and moving reflection on what it means to be human in a world where nothing is certain, from the award-winning Oxford professor'The best book about multiple sclerosis'THE TIMES'An outstanding feat'SUNDAY TIMESWe all have trapdoors in our lives. Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, the brilliant Dickens scholar, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2017. With everyone in the picture, Douglas-Fairhurst proceeded to do what he has done ever since he was a child: he read furiously, hoping to make sense of the new world in which he found himself.

It meant a six-month wait, during which time he developed problems with speech and speed of thought. Yes, I’d had many months to prepare for the pandemic – and again, this is going to sound holier than thou, but I think it gave me more empathy for people when it began. For me the funniest moment arises from a wholly unfunny circumstance; one of the symptoms of his condition is urinary ‘urgency’. At times he felt like Winnie in Beckett’s Happy Days, buried up to her neck; or like Prufrock (“how his arms and legs are thin”); or like Robinson Crusoe (“No rest all night, violent pains in my head”). But he knows there are few better places in which to be ill than an Oxford college (he has been at Magdalen for 20 years).Perhaps reading shouldn't be thought of as a way of avoiding [our] problems, but rather as an invitation to look at them through fresh eyes. But now he began to see them as part of a sinister jigsaw: a fiendish puzzle that would, he soon gathered, forever remain unsolvable. Cummings, who died aged 30, didn’t give the name of his illness but the symptoms are unmistakably those of MS.

As for treatments, though individual symptoms can to a degree be managed, the neurologist could offer no pill that would slow down the progress of the disease, beyond the possibly beneficial effect of taking high doses of vitamin D. This is a beautifully written memoir- the story of a devastating diagnosis but it is so much more than that. As a fellow Primary Progressive MS survivor, it was heartening to read an account of this condition from such an articulate, well regarded author and academic. These cookies help provide information on metrics the number of visitors, bounce rate, traffic source, etc. An account of living with multiple sclerosis that is both deeply literary and painfully honest as it charts his journey into ill health.It allows you a critical vantage point, enabling you to understand the illness from the inside and the outside simultaneously. But even as he read, and took solace in that reading, there was no ignoring the fact that his own disease was developing rapidly, symptoms that had previously been content to remain in the background now thrusting themselves wholeheartedly upon him. Within a couple of minutes, I had begun to run – or more accurately lurch like a panicked giraffe – down the street. As well as the medical texts he read, he became fascinated by novels and plays in which serious illness plays a major part.

A darkly comic and moving memoir on what it means to be human in a world where nothing is certain, from the award-winning Oxford professor. But better wilful legs (and knee pads) than some other things: “The less the body works, the more you appreciate any bit that still does. Amongst many other devastating reassessments of his life and his place in the world, Douglas-Fairhurst was faced with the question of how to tell family, friends and colleagues what was happening to him. What he gives us isn’t just the story of an illness but a story about the importance of stories – of imaginative literature as bibliotherapy.

Metamorphosis is the best book I have read about multiple sclerosis , and that is because it is about so much more. And there is mischievous laughter breezing throughout the book, forbidding any maudlin false sentiment.

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