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Keeper: A Book About Memory, Identity, Isolation, Wordsworth and Cake ... [Paperback]

Andrea Gillies
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
Price: 6.29 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

20 May 2010
WINNER OF INAUGURAL WELLCOME TRUST PRIZE and ORWELL PRIZE 2010

Can our personalities be taken away from us? Are we more than just the sum of our memories? What exactly is the soul? <P>Three years ago, Andrea Gillies, a writer and mother of three, took on the care of her mother-in-law Nancy, who was in the middle stages of Alzheimer's disease. This newly extended family moved to a big Victorian house on a headland in the far, far north of Scotland, where the author failed to write a novel and Nancy, her disease accelerated by change, began to move out of the rational world and into dementia's alternative reality. <P>This book is a journal of life in this wild location, in which Gillies tracks Nancy's unravelling grasp on everything that we think of as ordinary, and interweaves her own brilliantly cogent investigations into the way Alzheimer's works. For the family at the centre of this drama, the learning curve was steeper and more interesting than anyone could have imagined.

Frequently Bought Together

Keeper: A Book About Memory, Identity, Isolation, Wordsworth and Cake ... + And Still the Music Plays: Stories of People with Dementia + Contented Dementia: A Revolutionary New Way of Treating Dementia : 24-hour Wraparound Care for Lifelong Well-being
Price For All Three: 25.04

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Short Books Ltd (20 May 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1906021996
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906021993
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 50,636 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Andrea Gillies's account of living with Alzheimer's is the perfect fusion of narrative with enough memorable science not to choke you. It's a fantastic book - down to earth and darkly comic in places. The judges found it compelling. --Jo Brand<br /><br />A wonderful book honest, upsetting, tender, sometimes angry, often funny which takes us on a journey into dementia and explores what it means to be human. --Deborah Moggach<br /><br />Terrific, terrifying, absolutely powerful in every choice of word, every sentence... completely unflinching --Quentin Cooper

This is not another guide to be added to the depressing pile by the bedside for those who are confronting the decline of a relative. It is as much an exploration of memory, its loss and the subsequent erosion of personality, as a chronicle of the destructive chaos that the onset of Alzheimer's unleashes on the extended family...
Somehow, despite the territory, Gillies manages to steer the book away from misery lit and beneath the profoundly bleak narrative runs a stream of grim humour. Most powerful, however, is Nancy's own voice, carefully recorded by Gillies in nightly diary entries, a voice that is at times cantankerous, bewildered and defiant. Reading these monologues, we get very close to understanding what it feels like to experience this illness... What makes this book so unexpected is the honesty with which Gillies records the catastrophic consequences of this well-intentioned act. --Amelia Gentleman, The Guardian

Terrific, terrifying, absolutely powerful in every choice of word, every sentence... completely unflinching --Quentin Cooper

Review

This is one of the most moving and important books that I have read on Alzheimer's. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Keeper 28 Sep 2010
By Ann
Format:Paperback
My husband has Alzheimers, and I wondered if I would be able to face reading this book, which I saw well reviewed. In fact, I found it fascinating, and not gloomy - which is quite remarkable considering the subject. It has been extremely helpful to read the chapters which include research into the way the memory works and the progression of the disease; it explains what is happening to my husband and makes it easier for me to be understanding and patient in daily living when I know which parts of the brain are ceasing to function and the effect that has. I am impressed that Andrea was able to care for Nancy for so long, and I think it is important to realise not only that Alzheimers takes different courses, certainly in the earlier stages, depending on the experience and background of the patient, but also that the amount of care we are able to give relates to our own age and ability. Looking after someone of an older generation is physically more practical than for someone of ones own age (in our case, both of us are in our 80's).
I am grateful for this book and to Andrea for writing frankly about the experience of living with Alzheimers. It is never going to be an easy ride, but knowledge of the subject does help, and it is a comfort to know that other people lose their patience sometimes! Don't be afraid to read it.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
I have never come across a book like this before! Part personal memoir, part eulogy and part medical analysis. As is the case for most people Andrea Gillies came across Alzheimers accidentally and with little knowledge or training. She details the painful experience of caring for her much loved mother in law, Nancy, an experience that is painful and bewildering for herself and her family. The experience is confusing and unsettling for Nancys husband, Morris. And ultimately and most tragically the experience is a void and a vacuum for Nancy herself. She rarely understands her own condition as she loses all the threads of her memories. The book is sad and comic by turn, will help anyone facing similar circumstances but is most appealing because it does not fall into that easy, self-help book category.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars making sense of Alzheimers 2 Oct 2009
Format:Paperback
As someone caring for a partner with Alzheimers Disease, I read what I can, to give me advice, support and an understanding of what is happening to my partner and myself. This book does just about everything. It is compassionate, funny, and so true. I related to most of it. It is a must read for anyone who has a family member with dementia
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartbreakingly beautiful 14 Jun 2011
Format:Paperback
I read this book a year ago but can't get it out of my head. Always interested in memory, aging, family memoir, within a few pages of starting it, I literally couldn't put it down. When I had finished it, the family, and the dilemma at the heart of this family, was so vivid that I couldn't bring myself to begin reading another book for days. It's a clever and beautiful mix of honest family memoir (with all the heartbreak, black humour and frustration that real families experience) and intelligence gathering about the topic of Alzheimers. It might sound bleak, but it isn't: it's life-affirming in the way that it shows that people can learn to cope with burdens that look crushing at the outset. I recommend it to anyone and everyone.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating insights 25 Nov 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A compelling, tragicomic read about this family's personal experience with Alzheimer's. It is as I expected it, having read previous reviews; the style is enjoyable and the whole hangs together to give the reader a warts-and-all idea of what to expect if Alzheimer's comes to touch us directly, as it will many of us. The scientific explanations are dealt with in small chunks, at appropriate moments, so informative but never an overload. Recommended reading for anyone with older relatives, or wondering whether they themselves are embarking on a path towards dementia of one sort or another.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best carers memoir written 12 Dec 2009
Format:Paperback
I have read most books in this area, but have never had such an enjoyable, stimulating read.I started to ration myself to only a chapter a day - to spin it out. It is brilliant writing. Andrea Gillies explains with reference to her research and honestly explores her feelings, emotions and actions, charts Nancy's decline and weaves in lyrical description of the countryside and weather. Stunning! I've written a book about my mothers dementia with lewy bodies - no wonder I can't get it published when there are books like 'Keeper' around.....
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Dementia presents in many ways and as a carer it is often difficult understand the behaviour of the person with the disease. This book helps and is written with sincere empathy and a much needed touch of healing humour. We have purchased a second copy to pass on.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Winner of the Orwell Prize 2010 26 May 2010
Format:Paperback
'In this account of caring for her mother-in-law, Andrea Gillies avoids all the pitfalls of the misery memoir. It's a vivid, honest, perceptive first hand report but more than that, an exploration of the role of memory in identity. At times, shocking, funny, informative and provocative, it is undoubtedly a compelling read. Never depressing yet with challenging insights into old age and senility, it raises sharp questions about the caring for those growing numbers who can no longer be independent. It is a profound contemplation through science, political critique and deeply felt emotion of one of the looming problems of the 21st Century.'

The Orwell Prize is Britain's most prestigious prize for political writing. The Book Prize judges for 2010 were Jonathan Heawood (director, English PEN), Andrew Holgat
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Brillant! Having two parents with dementia I could really empathize.
Published 27 days ago by kay chinn
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating
A brave and fascinating book with great insights into looking after a family member with Alzheimer's. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Jane Byars
5.0 out of 5 stars Honest insights
This account of the struggle to care for a family member with Alzheimers is well researched, well written, searingly honest, fascinating & sometimes funny. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Sue Richardson
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading
This is a moving and fascinating account by Gillies of living with and caring for her mother in law, who was sadly inflicted with Alzheimers. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Josa Young
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written
I think anyone who is having to cope with a family member with Alzheimer's may find this book a helpful read. Read more
Published 3 months ago by GemmaF
5.0 out of 5 stars Love this book
I haven't liked many books about dementia that I have bought, academic or carer perspective or personal experience, but this one I was really taken with and read it from beginning... Read more
Published 5 months ago by ros
4.0 out of 5 stars Frank account of looking after a relative with Alzheimer's
This book was a very frank account of the pressures and strains of looking after a relative with Alzheimer's - on the remote Scottish Coast, while at the same time trying to keep... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Zelda
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book
This is a compassionate yet humorous account of alzheimers disease and how a family coped with it. It should be read by people of all ages - very relevant to all our lives.
Published 9 months ago by Marian
5.0 out of 5 stars Keeper
Covers all sides of living with a dementia, particularly from the family carers' point of view. Cleverly interspersed with factual information and anecdotal experiences.
Published 10 months ago by vivienne edgar
5.0 out of 5 stars 5* brilliant amazing book
This is the best,most honest book ive read so far.immense respect for such a truthful account of what its like to look after a person with alzheimers-most people would think these... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Justthejob12
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