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A Season in Hell: A Memoir [Kindle Edition]

Marilyn French
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description

An extraordinary memoir on facing death . . . and choosing life

Where there’s a will . . .

Given a death sentence after being diagnosed with cancer, Marilyn French fought back . . . and won. A Season in Hell is the story of her battle to survive against overwhelming odds.

A smoker for almost half a century, French was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in the summer of 1992. She was given a year to live, but five years later, she was, incredibly, cancer free. In this inspiring account, French chronicles her journey, from her reaction to the devastating news, to the chemotherapy that almost killed her, to her miraculous return to life following a two-week coma. She shares her feelings on apathetic doctors, the vital importance of a support network of friends and family, and how her near-death experience forever altered her perspective and priorities.

Editorial Reviews Review

Marilyn French, author of My Summer with George, The Women's Room, and Her Mother's Daughter, learns at the beginning of this memoir that she has esophageal cancer. (A smoker for 46 years, she had ignored friends and doctors who implored her to quit.) She is told that one survives metastasized esophageal cancer. A Season in Hell is French's personal story of her journey through the nightmares of aggressive cancer treatment, seizures, a two-week coma, kindhearted nurses, and uncompassionate doctors. One told her not to get her hopes up when her tumor disappeared, and a neurologist said (prophetically?), "Doctors hate writers; they always say horrible things about us." It is also French's story of triumph--because she succeeds in conquering the cancer, though she emerges from the struggle far from well, with "just about every system in my body [damaged] by chemotherapy or radiation." Readers share the worst and the best with French, and by the end of the book get to know this woman, feel a part of her humanity, respect her courage, and cherish her circle of close friends (including Gloria Steinem) and relatives who gave her so much when she needed it most. --Joan Price

From Publishers Weekly

From 1992 through part of 1996, French endured a horrific battle with esophageal cancer and a "virtual return from the dead." Every possible health-related indignity is recounted here as she tells the reader far more about her hellish ordeal than most will want to know. The author takes great pains to ventilate about every unpleasantness she has endured (from male M.D.'s who "belittle" French by calling her a "tough lady," to "obtuse" book reviewers who fail to appreciate her writing, as well as the quotidian irritations of the world at large). Thankfully, she does express gratitude to her devoted children and her caring, high-profile female friends (Bella Abzug, Gloria Steinem, Germaine Greer, etc.). This Job's litany of horror is, however, a nightmare endured by a wealthy, much-honored literary giant, and a little acknowledgment of the many who suffer similar catastrophes without the status or financial wherewithal would have been nice. Although brief glimmers of growth and self-introspection appear every 40 or 50 pages, far more often the reader is presented with the author's calendar activity list, which resemble afterthoughts. Only one in five esophageal cancer victims survives, so it cannot be denied that French beat the odds. But such a talented writer should have known that a prolonged rant would not inspire others facing similar hardships.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 935 KB
  • Print Length: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Open Road Media; Reprint edition (September 24, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #157,923 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
3.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Grim but Thought-Provoking April 28, 2000
As I read this this grim memoir of a cure almost worse than the disease I kept comparing the author's wealthy and privileged situation to that of the rest of us women who don't have millions of dollars, marvelous famous friends, apartments convenient to top New York city Cancer Centers, and medical friends who can help us find the very best specialist.
As miserable as the author's sufferings are (and they ARE miserable) they pale in comparison to what a person would go through who had the same disease but could not afford around the clock private nursing, medical consultation after medical consultation, and the occasional retreat to a pleasant summer home the author describes.
This is not in any way a slam of the book, which I thought was a very accurate and revealing portrayal of what happens to anyone who suffers a serious health crisis that puts them at the mercy of unknown doctors and huge, impersonal hospitals. Instead I thought that this book would probably be a good reason to read this book before you sign your next HMO contract since it shows you just how dangerous it would be if you got a serious disease and were prevented from accessing top specialists and having the benefit of nursing and adequate rehabilitative services.
I have personally experienced the same kind of supercilious negative treatment from doctors that French details here, as well as suffering from dangerous misdiagnosis, having doctors ignore painful and crippling symptoms, and being left with permanent damage from misprescribed drugs, so I knew what she was talking about. I greatly respected her for telling a story in public that most people don't want to hear.
This is not your usual disease-of-the-week tearjerker nor is it a "how I saw God through cancer" memoir.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A must read for the medical profession May 12, 2000
Although not familiar with Marilyn French I read the book because the subject of a woman fighting and surviving esophageal cancer intrigued me. Marilyn is not just any woman but an intelligent author and world traveler. She gives an excellent picture of the real world of cancer. Things like waiting forever to see the doctor, enduring the chemo aftereffects, and making decisons that can either bring life or death are treated with candor and sharp honesty. She made me understand her experience as I cried with her and cheered with her. The best part of the book was reading of the support and love she received from some of her famous friends. I did not agree with her belief system but I cherished the strength I felt in the ritual of just "being " with someone. As a women's health care nurse it made me a whole lot more sensitive to how I treat patients and families
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating memoir of surviving metastatic cancer March 20, 1999
By A Customer
This book is not for the faint-hearted, as it spares the reader no amount of pain and suffering. It is beautifully and painstakingly written, and the author is not shy about condemning those in the medical profesion whom she perceives to be pompous, bored or uncaring. She has the highest praise for the nurses who cared for her in the hospital and at home. Although ostensibly about surviving metastatic esophogeal cancer, the book is also a tribute to the author's family and friends who helped her live through the harrowing after-effects of cancer treatment. While reading the book, one begins to wonder if the treatment was worth the debilitating physical changes Ms. French deals with on a daily basis, despite being free of cancer. In the final chapter, she assures us that her sickness brought her to a better place than she'd ever been before, and we are left hoping that she can remain in that place.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Telling cancer like it is September 4, 2007
Marilyn French is honest. Her observation of the cancer treatment establishment rings true. She hones in on the irony that in order to live, given the extremity of the treatment, she almost had to die and she remains considerably handicapped after the chemo and radiation have done their damage. Still, she is happy with the bargain that she made to keep living. She does not expect any afterlife, so it is not surprising that she is happy to be alive. She observes that most people want to continue to live at any cost. However, those costs are not entirely her own. She has to rely on her family and on the medical system. Does her life place an unfair burden on the people around her? This question will be multiplied by the millions as all of us aging baby boomers prolong our lives.

Marilyn had money, and her family and friends were all willing to help. My question may answer itself. Those more fortunate will have care and live longer and those less fortunate won't. Many of us, though, will have to be concerned about how our needs impact the lives of our children and others who care about us. I think it would deepen Marilyn's book if she had given more consideration to this question.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read this book June 26, 2010
This is a wonderful memoir and very very eye-opening. It scared me to death. I will have to definitely think twice before I choose to "fight" if the cancer is bad enough. She made me realize that some things are worse than death. I personally would not want to live with the damaged heart, kidneys, brain, bones, etc. that she has now to live with thanks to the poison put into her body to rid her of the cancer. This is one brave woman and I applaud her. I do think she had it easier because she is wealthy. Those of us common folk would probably die and not be able to fight like her anyway due to lack of funds. All in all, this is a great book and everyone should read it. It is reality and admittedly reality sucks, but that's life. Again, I applaud this author, great book !!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Buyer beware....
Buyers remorse for much as I admired Ms. French's writing in the Womens Room, this account of the devastating diagnosis and treatment of esophageal cancer was... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Linda King
3.0 out of 5 stars Not for the squeamish
I admire Marilyn French's fiction, so I was intrigued when I saw this book about her struggle with esophogeal cancer. Read more
Published 14 months ago by cathair
3.0 out of 5 stars Not riviting, but interesting
As a Cancer survivor myself, I was interested in her experience. She is a good writer, but sometimes the writing prose interferes with the story.
Published 16 months ago by tammy severin
3.0 out of 5 stars Self absorbed
This is an interesting memoir, but was bothersome as the author appeared self absorbed and angry most of the time.
Published 16 months ago by D. Kenney
4.0 out of 5 stars A Season in Hell: A Memoir
Bought for a friend and was told it was a good read. Book arrived in good condition and was well packaged. Recommend the seller for promptness.
Published on July 11, 2010 by Linda M. Dancker
4.0 out of 5 stars Hell on Earth...
Marilyn French's "A Season in Hell" is a disarmingly honest account of her life/death battle with Esophageal Cancer, but just as importantly her memoir is a testimony to her... Read more
Published on March 11, 2010 by Marjorie Meyerle
4.0 out of 5 stars How about a little blame for cigarettes...
Well, this is hardly a book that you can say you enjoyed - it is too horrific. I would be hard pressed to think of a body part which wasn't damaged by chemo and radiation. Read more
Published on May 7, 2009 by Giuseppe V
3.0 out of 5 stars Some details were interesting, but overally self-centered
I picked up this book to read as it looked to be an interesting medical tale. I knew nothing about the author before reading it. Read more
Published on April 17, 2001 by Suzanne Amara
4.0 out of 5 stars A victory against enormous odds!
I was drawn to this book because my closest friend was diagnosed with esophageal cancer at age 52 in fall 1998 and was offered only palliative care initially until she appealed to... Read more
Published on January 23, 2001 by Paula D. Matuskey
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