Summer reading;Books

16th July 1999 at 01:00
WEEK 1. REMIND ME WHO I AM, AGAIN. By Linda Grant Granta pound;7.99

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This account by journalist Linda Grant of her mother's gradual decline as dementia impaired her memory won a Mind award for its perceptive portrayal of mental illness THE READERS Jane Pratt is head of English at Fulneck school, Pudsey, West Yorkshire Annie Blackmore is deputy head of Clapton school, east London Cristabel Lythe is a supply teacher in Staffordshire primary schools Linda Hill is an advisory teacher for Tesco SchoolNet 2000 Hugh Lester is a lecturer in English at Coleg Glan Hafren Cardiff Tertiary College Fiona de Vasquez is a secretary at the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff JP. A brilliant, soul-searching read. I became totally absorbed in a search for identity while recognising that we are only what we ourselves invent and remember. The changing tones and moods as the author shifts from being a daughter who isn't "good enough" to not being recognised as that daughter are sudden and thought-provoking. The writing moves as the mind does - from funny to poignant, happy to sad within a sentence.

AB. A moving exploration of memory and identity, this book is not only about Linda Grant's mother and her progressive loss of memory, but also about its impact on her daughter. Linda Grant cries out to be reminded of who she is, even more so than her mother. She draws out how keenly the loss of individual and collective memory is felt by Jews, who have spent so much of their history reinventing themselves - her family included.

CL. This is an outstanding book: funny, sad, sensitive, perceptive and painfully honest. As well as the intensely-moving account of her mother's dementia, Grant offers fascinating insights into the social and cultural life of her Jewish family. The book raises important issues. Do we lose our identity when we lose our memory? How can we cope when the parent-child role is reversed? Grant addresses these questions unflinchingly in a lucid and unpretentious style. I wish it had been available when my father had Alzheimer's. It says it all.

LH. Do not attempt to read this book dispassionately and rationally. Grant writes with terrifying accuracy of the relationships we have with our parents, our cultures and even our own memories. Shocking in her honesty, she leaves her reader feeling, like her mother, lost and uncertain. Although there are moments of true humour, this is not a book to be "enjoyed". It is, however, compelling. The story of Linda Grant and her mother's decline into multi-infarct dementia is also the story of you and of me. It is the possible, terrifying apocalypse that awaits us all.

HL. This is not only an honest, involving depiction of a serious illness; the title also refers to Linda Grant's investigation of her own identity: her Jewishness, her family's background as immigrants from Poland and Russia, and the details of her parents' lives revealed, paradoxically, as her mother's illness progressed. In the process, she explores more general aspects of what makes us who we are: personality, memory, ageing. Reading this fascinating account of a life examined is a stimulating experience.

FdeV. The book is educational, without blinding you with science. Any blinding comes more from the introduction of so many characters at the beginning, as we delve into the author's ancestry. Her parents are interesting, but Grant portrays them in an unflattering light so that at no time did I ever like them, and only occasionally did I feel sorry for her confused mother. The writer is witty where she could have been sentimental, so it is an unusual book, and certainly worth a read.

Next week's read: 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being' by Milan Kundera (Faber pound;4.99)

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