Anna was living a normal life. She was ambitious and worked hard; she had just bought an apartment; she was falling in love. But then she started to develop worrying symptoms: her face felt like it was burning whenever she was in front of the computer. Soon this progressed to an intolerance of fluorescent light, then of sunlight itself. The reaction soon spread to her entire body. Now, when her symptoms are at their worst she must spend months on end in a blacked-out room, losing herself in audio books and elaborate word games in an attempt to ward off despair. During periods of relative remission she can venture cautiously out at dawn and dusk, into a world which, from the perspective of her normally cloistered existence, is filled with a remarkable beauty. And throughout there is her relationship with Pete. In many ways he is Anna's saviour, offering her shelter from the light in his home. But she cannot enjoy a normal life with him, cannot go out in the day, even making love is uniquely awkward. Anna asks herself "by continuing to occupy this lovely man while giving him neither children, nor a public companion, nor a welcoming home - do I do wrong?" With gorgeous, lyrical prose, Anna brings us into the dark with her, a place from which we emerge to see love, and the world, anew.
Why we love it: I felt absolutely heartbroken reading this memoir; it's so deeply sad at times but uplifting and hopeful at others. Anna Lyndsey's novel is a series of vignettes from her life, pre- and post-darkness. Her transition from a desk jockey for the government, to a hostage to her own photophobia, is an emotional roller coaster. She journeys from the depths of despair to elation at the tiniest sign of progress. But even with her heartbreaking illness, Anna is able to find bright spots through her relationship, immersion in audiobooks, and even the funny side of dressing like a madwoman to survive journeys into the outside world. This is a heart wrenching memoir, as well as a story full of hope, love and living life to its fullest. It reminded me a little of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby. Where he was trapped mentally in a space, Anna Lyndsey is trapped physically. Reading it left me with a feeling of gratefulness for the life I have.
The Team at Better Reading