This is a novel about an elderly woman who loses her mind. It's impossible to describe how good it is and most people would not want to read a book about the onset of Alzheimer's. Yet There Were No Windows is laugh-out-loud funny although at the same time being extremely sad and painful. Claire Temple is fully alive in some ways, in others only half alive, and she is full of fears, memories, incomprehension, anger, understanding and mis-understanding (because she knows she is losing her memory and can do nothing to help herself). One of the saddest things about the book is the way the people looking after her are so horrible; and yet one understands why she is so annoying and why she would try anyone's patience; then, halfway through the book someone is lovely to her, and that is uplifting. For anyone looking after, or having any contact with, someone with memory loss and incipient dementia, this is a must-read; it's disturbing but unforgettable.
I found it hard at first to get into this book (whereas I loved the other Blitz novel, 'Doreen'), because I feared being imprisoned in the consciousness of a crazy old woman, and of course didn't know the real woman on whom she was based. But I picked it up again, and found it to be excellent. Claire Temple is seen from the outside, too, by several different characters, and this relieves the tension. We note her different moods - charming to her callers, horrible to her carers, and still, at eighty, craving the attention of men. As Julia Briggs says, there aren't many books about people with Alzheimer's. But it is a subject we should all be thinking about.
Believe it or not. I read an old dusty 1946 copy of this book (an earlier addition) when I was only 14 years old. It was absolutely gripping. And educated me about dementia. If could read this at 14 then you'll find it fairly easy to get into
I was bought this as a Christmas gift, and am slowly working my way through. The main character is incredibly well observed, but having an aged relative with dementia I find it a little too close to home. There is nothing entertaining to me in observing the fear the main character shows in her lucid moments when she realises reality is slipping away. To be subjected to this once a week at visiting time is enough for me.