Friday, 11 June 2010

Sights unseen (Gibbons) 439

Not knowing anything very much about Sights unseen, I was certainly compelled by the opening passage:

"Had I known my mother was being given electro-convulsive therapy while I was dressing for school on eight consecutive Monday mornings, I do not think I could have buttoned my blouses or tied my shoes or located my homework. I see myself fumbling with the snap on my skirt, trying to connect the sides, turning around in a circle like a cat chasing its tail. I was twelve, deemed too young to be told what was happening to her and in fact too innocent to surmise it".

As regular readers will know, I am interested in books about madness, and there have been a number of VMCs that fit the bill (The Ha-Ha by Dawson, Shutter of Snow by Emily Holmes Colman, Antonia White, Janet Frame's autobiography), so it was good to stumble on this, especially as there are less books about the condition of bi-polar disorder (although beyond the scope of this blog I do recommend anything by Kay Redfield Jamieson).

The book is a portrait of Maggie Barnes, told through the eyes of her daughter Hattiw, and how her manic depression affects both Maggie and the family. What is particularly good about this book is the insights it gives into suffering the condition as well as what those close to the sufferer are going through. Gibbons shows that it is hugely destructive, but at the same time uses humour in some situations; and this strikes true with regards to my experience of having a very close friend with it.

I've not read any Gibbons before, but she has two other VMCs, A virtuous woman and Ellen Foster. This one was published just once by Virago in 1997 in a modern green edition.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful cover!

    Do you think that it is telling that a number of Virago Modern Classics -books by women- are about madness? Why is it a seemingly female concern?