on 3 May 2014
Fran Macilvey has a wonderful way with words. I've never been to Africa, but from her descriptions of her childhood, I was able to sense, see and smell her African home, the animals on safari and the beautiful warm ocean in an almost magical way. An achievement in itself, but she also enabled me to see and feel her life with cerebral palsy.
I don't have cerebral palsy but Fran states that we all have disabilities, whether physical, emotional or mental, and how right she is. I could emphasise with her through so much of her life: her unhappy years spent at boarding school, the law degree, taken because it was difficult, and the struggle with work where, due to feelings of worthlessness, she was put upon and abused. How more I understood myself and my own struggles after I'd read Fran's revealing book.
And Fran comes through in the end, through relationships and impossible work situations, she finds herself, her husband and a very special daughter. No longer trapped, by her writing she can soar.
on 9 March 2014
Without intending to, Fran Macilvey exemplifies Diane Arbus's famous claim that the disabled are the aristocrats of trauma because they face as routine what most people dread happening to them. And this is merely an opening statement about Macilvey's astonishing life story, Trapped.
Actually reading it is to expose yourself to vistas wondrous as children's fantasy. Daunting as it is, the narrative is not at all depressing because Macilvey survives each harrowing encounter. For every customary experience, she supplies a unique and captivating alternative, demonstrating the human spirit at its most resilient, and supplying a resounding denial to the claim, "If I faced the same thing, I would kill myself." These are but some of the reasons why Trapped is the ultimate in self-help literature.’
on 18 March 2014
I can count the books I have been truly inspired by on the fingers of one hand. Trapped is one of those books. And the funny thing is, I didn't see it coming. I had first read it as a fledgling project on the Authonomy site for aspiring writers, and thought great, I had only skim-read the first few chapters, I hadn't got hooked. Then the author sent me a personal hardback copy and I thought `Oh, how wonderful, but I haven't got time for this, I know, I'll just skim-read the rest and tell her how I know exactly where she's coming from, I broke my leg once and fell off my crutches and landed in a pile of dog poo and Chinese takeaway, and the experience was so humiliating and humbling that I immediately gained an understanding of how she must have felt every day of her life.'
How wrong that would have been. Gripped by the powerful prose, my eyes alighted on this passage and my skim-read slowed to a full stop:
`We are all disabled. Some of us by prejudice, some of us by fear, and some, by being misunderstood. We care so much what others think of us that our lives can become one long hobble to what we "should" or "should not" do next. None of us is truly "able bodied."'
How wise. How true. Someone else has said that Fran MacIlvey's life is mine and yours and everyone's. As you read this book, as I hope many of you will, the message is not how poor crippled kid with cerebral palsy managed to stay out of a wheelchair and claw some semblance of a `normal' life for herself, but how, in her own words, she learnt how to `fall and learn the power of getting myself up again to have another go.' Not just physically, but in every sense of the expression. It is this courage, this triumph of the spirit, which commands both awe and respect.
But it is Fran's faith and wisdom that make this book special, and which lifts it above the plethora of mediocre and not so mediocre memoirs. At the centre is a steel hard belief that God gives us the power of choice. We can choose when to come into this life, in which body, at what time. We can choose whether to be happy or sad. We can choose whether to learn from life's lessons or just go round on the wheel of karma and suffer again and again.
With that power of choice can come true freedom and Love. Not just for Fran, but for every single one of us. How wonderful.
on 14 October 2015
I won a copy of this book as a competition prize quite a while ago-now I wish I read it much sooner! This is Fran Macilvey’s story. She has cerebral palsy; in her book she tells of all the hurdles she deals with on a daily basis, letting us know with complete honestly exactly how she feels. The pretending-trying to live as normal a life as possible and just finding a different way of doing things. This was amazing and really interesting right from when I was just a few sentences in. Fran’s father was sent to the Belgian Congo to work-I wasn’t expecting this aspect, I didn’t know that the author had spent her childhood in Africa so this brought another dimension to things. This is a beautiful presentation with exquisite descriptions of her birthplace and there is a very emotional and moving chapter as the babies arrive (Fran is a twin). Due to complications at birth, and neglect on the part of the medical staff, Fran has cerebral palsy. She has real difficulties and this is her story how she has transcended. The family moved every two years due to her dad's work and I enjoyed reading about her childhood memories. Fond memories of the pudding creations of their cook all those years ago were so evocative. Then in later years Fran moves from Africa to Edinburgh. This is a gem of a book. Fran talks of learning to cope and laugh-off falls and minor injuries, stitches, bruises etc. She didn't think she needed fixing-she had found her own ways of getting around, running even-she didn't need anything altering thank you very much! She felt well, she wasn't in pain, and she didn't get what their problem was. Despite that she had to endure hospital stays and surgeries. She feels the doctors and surgeons tried out procedures on her and indeed some are not done anymore. I can see they were just trying to help her but it didn't always work out that way for Fran. This is balanced with a few chuckles at some of the school day reminiscences. This is wonderful and beautifully written. A very honest memoir which tells of the ups and downs and confusions of living with cerebral palsy and strained and separate family relationships. Very strong is her desire to be independent, to manage things herself, get that sense of achievement and to resist a wheelchair quite categorically! There are some wonderful, original and different quotes, she has the skill to put her feelings down on paper so exactly, so perfectly: "I felt ridiculously self-conscious, like the stick of celery at a luxurious buffet"-I loved that quote-a brilliant comparison! There is much more than meets the eye to this memoir. It's not just about cerebral palsy; we have the medical aspect, travel, jobs, also a sweet love story detailing her search for her soulmate. Fran Macilvey has poured so many emotions onto the page that you get so much back out of reading this. An absolute delight to read.
on 5 October 2015
This book is easy to read, it is so very well written, it carries you to far flung exotic places and to wild and windswept island and then slams you back to dingy rooms and cold, comfortless offices. It offers glimpses of lives different from those many of us know and it is full of colour and sound and wonder.
The story however is so very hard. It breaks your heart to watch this child battle with herself, her family, the medical profession and at times it would seem the rest of the world. I was at times heartbroken and then angry and then just terribly sad. Imagine watching from the side lines as so much of what you want is just out of reach and having to fight simply to prove, even to yourself that you are worthy and deserving of everything that life can offer.
By sharing her struggles with us in such a startlingly honest way the author has given us a great gift and a chance to look at how we behave when we meet other people, yes those with visible disabilities but also to remember that many of our fellow travellers through this life may be struggling with unseen burdens that are too heavy to carry alone. I feel humbled to have been given this insight into a life lived differently and I am grateful to Fran Mcilvey for her honesty and her humour and applaud her loud and long for her bravery and indeed the love and compassion that shines through as she finds peace with her wonderful family and leaves us uplifted and hopeful.
on 22 April 2014
I bought this book, full price on the recommendation of a friend. I have never paid £8 for a kindle book and was rather hoping that Trapped would live up to it's expensive price tag, I'm pleased to say that it did and worth every last penny.
Trapped is not a book that you race through, it's not a rollicking good read and it's not a roller coaster ride either.
Fran is neither trapped by her disabilities or people's prejudices for and against her. Instead she is trapped within herself, by herself, and like in all good fairy tales, she is 'rescued' from herself by the love of a good man and her daughter.
By reading Fran's book, I learned a lot about Fran, but more importantly she allowed me to learn more about myself. Fran, you are my rescuer and for that I am eternally grateful.
on 23 March 2014
‘Trapped’ by Fran MacIlvey
I was looking forward to reading this book as I am a parent of a little girl with CP. I found Fran’s graphic and personal tale so gripping that I wanted to jump in and cuddle, kiss and salute her all at once! I would say too, that at times I felt also privileged to be reading Fran’s account of family life, often feeling like I was eves dropping on her privacy. There are moments when I felt physically sick, the visceral accounts of her hospital visits and stays, which must have been so utterly frightening and traumatic. I particularly related to her boarding school days, as my own boarding life remained the same, monotonous wave length as Fran’s. I feel much of her ‘story’ is very fitting with the archetypal tribulations of people who simply feel that they ‘don’t fit in’. One exception is that whilst we have our historical angst and regrets, Fran literally suffered intense physical pain, disbelief and an astonishing tenacity to ‘go her go her own way’, against all odds. I found her honesty to be so raw and expressive that I often felt tearful and had to put the book down. I suppose (and can’t help it, it’s the way I am), I felt sorry for her. Not in a pitiful way, but in a humane and dare I say, distressed way. I wanted to feel settled in the knowledge that those players in Fran’s life had realised their part in her side of events that effected her life, not so much theirs. Of course, they all won’t have read her book (yet!), but I feel a disappointment in human frailty and ignorance, especially from people who ought to know better. Ultimately, Fran ‘knows better’ about her own life. If anything, a chord has resounded that we must never presume all people who have CP to feel the same, to except their ‘lot’ and just resign to a benign and un wanting, un needing existence. Clearly, as Fran refers to as a universal ‘disability’ in us all, we all have choices as to how we live our lives. We don’t necessarily take the easier options but find our own lights and live by them. I felt that Fran’s concluding chapters left me feeling that this lady had come to a deeper understanding of her meaning in this Universe and happily had chosen to be forgiving and loving. She is an inspiration to anyone who has CP and also for parents like me, who wish to have an insight and further understanding of the inner workings of a struggling existence (against her own demons and those imposed upon her by society). We have a long way to go in this society towards our expectance of ‘difference’ and can be so wholly judgemental of what we (the elitist ‘normal’ people) think towards anyone who ‘we’ deem to be ‘different’. It’s hard reading, I know, but I see and feel it frequently in my experience of a mother of a child with CP. She seems to have to excel harder to be accepted, against all the tiring and painful background of her day to day existence. People are so surprised at her abilities, as if they always default to the conclusion that she is unable to achieve anything. Fran’s anecdotal chronological example of getting her baby downstairs and out the door is so typical of this! Often, when I hear a judgemental remark about people with disabilities and childbirth, for example, I always draw their attention the fact that we never seem to notice let alone discuss and judge anyone else’s ability to bring up their kids! It’s just that everything is in a different dimension. Everything is tiring, needing calculation and preparation. Life is hard and people either help and encourage others through thick and thin, or they totally neglect their humanity and drive a shaft of utter shame for the rest of us to endure. The rest of us, who may not have Fran’s physical ‘distractions’, certainly share her humanity and feelings. I hope this book reaches far and wide, because it is a seminal and graphical account of a woman who is simply trying to get on with her life, against all odds. Well done Fran, I salute you!
on 25 April 2015
It seems completely wrong to say I enjoyed reading this book, but I did. The writing is excellent, the book well edited and the story of Fran's life moves at pace giving the reader a detailed insight into the momentous problems of living with a physical disability combined with other problems such as depression. It also paints the picture of how the author's problems affected her relationships with her parents, siblings and schoolfriends, and others who are, depressingly and unsurprisingly, judgmental and idiotic.
Reading the story of Fran's life to date makes you angry, upset, and at times, horrified. But there are lots of smiles as well and one of my favourite comments in the whole book was that made by Fran's husband when he first saw their baby daughter - that really made me laugh out loud.
I take my hat off to you Fran Macilvey for dealing with life as you have and for producing such an excellent biography. I hope you go on to write more as you clearly have talent as a writer.
I have no hesitation in giving this book five stars and strongly recommending it.
on 31 December 2014
At face value, "Trapped" is a personal account of life with cerebral palsy, from birth to present day; but it is so much more than that. Fran writes with great honesty even though she admits to having hidden her feelings for most of her life. What surprised me was that without knowing what her experiences were really like for her – no-one can truly understand those of another human being –it was possible to relate to so many of them. The value for me as a reader was not so much Fran's life story per se, because the experiences of any person can be fascinating if we spare the time to listen, but the great emphasis she makes on the importance of remembering that no matter what a person's outward appearance may be, there is a very real and aware spirit underneath. The individual is not the body that we see. We all make assumptions about others and this is a very poignant reminder that we shouldn't, because we will be wrong.
The book is well written and easy to read. Some parts are narrative, almost like a novel, whilst others linger over the inner thoughts and emotions. At times it seems as though we are travelling through a tunnel, but there is a good amount of light at the end. From this reader's perspective, this book is not an account of life with cerebral palsy but a courageous telling of the unfolding of a human soul. For that, Fran, thank you.
on 5 October 2015
Fran McIlvey's book is based on personal experience and hard-won insights into how the able-bodied world interacts with and responds to physical disability. In Fran's case the disability was physical, not mental, but this did not prevent her suffering many of the same forms of stigma and patronising treatment that mentally handicapped people also suffer. Whether one is in a wheelchair, or whether the disability is less visible, does matter. Fran's disability was in many ways more visible than real. She does fall, that is how she starts the book, but in many ways she lives a full life, as full as that of many able-bodied people, and maybe fuller. The difference is that everything costs a great deal more effort, and she is constantly misled by her own assumption and that of others, that she needs to 'adjust' to 'fit in', rather than that she has the entitlement to expect others to fit in to her own adjustments to living with this third party, the Disability. To a large extent, what I got out of this book, apart from the resonant and complex personal twists and turns of the ever-surprising story, is Fran's struggle to tame the demons and to make Disability, as something ruling her daily life, into simple living with being disabled. She is a brave and forthright, sincere and at times very funny writer. The text was polished, tantalisingly terse and gives just enough information to hook you, yet not so much detail that you lose the thread. This unusual text manages to walk a literary tightrope between sentiment and reason, self-respect and abject humiliation. The result is a powerfully moving autobiography, a tour de force on any level. It is quite a feat to manage this delicate balance. The only thing I would have wished for is for her to explore a bit more the events as if she were someone else. She does that with her own birth, because she has to extrapolate that part. Yet I think that Fran can manage more than one voice at a time, and hope she tries this in future work!