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What to Look for in Winter: A Memoir in Blindness Hardcover – March 20, 2012


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Editorial Reviews

Review

“A dramatic memoir, which showcases [McWilliam’s] elegant voice.” (O, the Oprah Magazine)

“An astonishingly honest memoir about blindness, failed marriages and alcoholism as well as the joys of motherhood and the natural world. All delivered in a beautiful, athletic style one can only envy.” (Edmund White)

“Not just a remarkable memoir...but also a blissful celebration of the poetry of her prose....Anyone who enjoys a play of words and appreciates the turn of a phrase in a beautifully constructed sentence will value this book for years to come.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

“The most startling, discomforting, complicated, ungovernable, hilarious and heart-rending of memoirs.” (Sunday Telegraph (London))

“What a precise, poetic dissection of a life this is; how brave she was, and how wise, to undertake it.” (The Telegraph (London))

“Brilliant . . . breathtakingly raw in its self-excoriation. . . . Unforgettable.” (Sunday Times (London))

“One of the most extraordinary literary autobiographies of this or any other year.” (The Times (London))

“Extraordinary. (The Independent)

“Beautiful, harrowing and in every way remarkable.” (New Statesman)

“Candia McWilliam’s much-praised memoir What to Look for in Winter is my favourite book of the year, startlingly honest, wry, sad and wise.” (Dave Nicholls, The Guardian (London))

“[An] astonishing memoir - sprawling, riveting, out-of-control, heartbreaking, hilarious and at times so vivd and captivating that, yes, you might wish you had stood in McWilliam’s shoes.” (Susan Ager, Minneapolis Star Tribune)

“[A] shimmering memoir….The unblinking contemplation of a life whose woozy chutes-and-ladders path led, literally and otherwise, into darkness….Eloquently recalled….McWilliam gathers the ineffable spaces of her past and knots them into something practical, expansive, and enduring.” (Jan Stuart, Boston Globe)

“Sparkles with vivid descriptions….An astonishingly beautiful portrait of what the world looks like when you can no longer see it.” (Publishers Weekly)

From the Back Cover

"The most startling, discomforting, complicated, ungovernable, hilarious, and heartrending of memoirs" (The Telegraph, london)—the story of a celebrated writer's sudden descent into blindness, and the redemptive journey into the past that her loss of sight sets in motion

In 2006 the acclaimed novelist Candia McWilliam began losing her sight, a gradual onset of blindness that seemed like an assault cruelly tailored for someone whose life consisted of reading and writing. Propelled to look inward and into the past, McWilliam embarked on a painful personal voyage through a waste of snows punctuated by shards of ice as she attempted to write her life back. What followed was a flow of memory: her childhood in Edinburgh, her devastating alcoholism, finding and losing her bearings in Cambridge and London, her marriages, her children, and, overshadowing it all, her mother's suicide.

A personal story of love and loss, addiction and reclamation, her piercing memoir is also a celebration of friendship, reading, children, and the consolations of landscape. In What to Look for in Winter, McWilliam riffles through her many incarnations to find her true self and discover how she may come to see once more.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (March 20, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780062094506
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062094506
  • ASIN: 0062094505
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,343,807 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Customer Reviews

I was really excited to get this book; I too am losing my vision.
Rabid Reader
As if this wasn't sufficient, the author reflects upon and endless stream of itsy, bitsy, tedious details which seem to go nowhere and have little point.
javajunki
Hopefully, other readers, perhaps with a deeper understanding of the literary nuances, will see in this book what I did not.
Trudie Barreras

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Rabid Reader VINE VOICE on January 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I was really excited to get this book; I too am losing my vision. Not from blepharospasm (like the suthor), but from an irreversible genetic disease. So, I had hoped to find some sort of wisdom, advice, or at least entertainment within the pages of the book, but I found none. It is dark, slow and to be very upfront, depressing.

Much is made of the author's life prior to her blindness; a life that was full of mental illness, death of loved ones and addiction. Frankly, after the first several chapters, I had to force myself to read on - and as much difficulty as I have seeing the printed word these days - that alone was an exercise in self-discipline. My discipline was not rewarded. The book didn't get brighter, no wisdom was hidden within, and at the end of each chapter, I felt like taking an anti depressant.

There are those who enjoy book that plumb the dark depth of the soul and pick at emotional scabs; those sorts will enjoy this book. However, if you (like me) are looking for something to encourage you as you pass through your own dark places, you may want to keep looking.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Kayla Rigney VINE VOICE on February 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As a person with a disability, I read this memoir *wanting* to relate, *wanting* to understand; but the attitudes presented in *What to Look for in Winter: A Memoir In Blindness* are alien to mine. Regrets fill page after page. I, too, became disabled; I, too, had to come to terms with the Befores and Afters -- but I never gave in to that interior darkness that fills the pages of *What to Look for In Winter.*

I'm giving this book 4 stars because it's well-crafted and a strangely haunting look at the darkest nights of one soul. This doesn't mean I *liked* it. I didn't. However, as a memoir of acquired blindness/ disability, it's of great value, because it's *honest.* There is no "Good/Brave/Courageous"(or any other stereotypical word) Blind woman here -- just a very human one trying to process her loss.

The language of disability is different for each person. Ms. McWilliam's is just too far-removed from my own for me to embrace.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Patricia VINE VOICE on February 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
First a couple of warnings: #1 This book is written by a Scot writer who lives in Britain and for Americans some of the meanings can be elusive; #2 This woman has a vocabulary - I looked up more words than I have in a long time (I enjoyed that part even though I won't remember most of them); #3 She cannot stay on subject - meanders all over the place. Now to the review: Candia McWilliam is a well-known and award-winning author of fiction in Britain and this memoir deals with the effects of blepharospasm on her life - she is going blind even though her eyes can see but her lids won't stay open. An unusual disease that stumps most of the medical community until she finds the right surgeon. But she also has a long history of emotional issues from alcoholism, early death of her mother, aloof father, broken marriages, other health issues and a very poor self-image. Enough to weigh anyone down. But as she herself makes obvious, she causes many of her own problems. You have to admire her willingness to show us some of that but it is very frustrating to watch - particularly when she won't stay on point and dangles a few titillating details and then hides the rest. At points I wanted to reach into the book and shake her, but at the same time there was no way I was not going to finish the book (the second half is better than the first) as I became quite intrigued by her. It is certainly not a book for everyone (and as for the blind you don't want to follow her example!) but if you have the stomach for this kind of memoir, dive in.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By B. J. Lewis VINE VOICE on January 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Candia McWilliam recalls her father's instructions to her as a child on how to construct a fishing net: gather a lot of holes and tie them together with string. Her memoir, while mesmerizing in parts, could use more "string" to fill in several gaping holes.

The terrifying - and puzzling, at least, to the medical world (and, obviously, my spell checker) -- condition know as "blepharospasm" and its treatment, is described in minutely horrifying detail. Becoming blind is appalling in itself, but becoming blind with eyes that CAN see is a nightmarish condition to impose on anyone, let alone such a gifted writer and/or prolific reader as McWilliam. "Prolific reader" does not do her justice if, indeed, she was used to reading 700 pages a day. (She obviously wasn't reading her own writing at that pace.)

Her writing style made me put the book aside after the first 60 pages and I took a break of about two weeks trying to decide whether I wanted to finish it. Two books later, one delicious novel by Barbara Kingsolver and one 600 page chick-lit, read only because it was a book club selection -- unbearably awful -- I returned to this book. While her convoluted sentence construction was still annoying at times, at least, once straightened out, I found that she was saying something that was worth the time I spent on it. My conclusion after the two week respite was that this is not a book to speed read, but one to slowly savor.

As for the "holes," the largest one I found was in her lack of detail while addressing her alcoholism. She shares the fact that it destroyed her marriages and that she was saved by joining AA, but the details are woefully leaky - uh, lacking.
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What to Look for in Winter: A Memoir in Blindness
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