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What to Look for in Winter: A Memoir in Blindness Hardcover – March 20, 2012
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“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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Top customer reviews
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.
Read it and never complain again.
'Sparkling doses of light.’
Strings of pearls in Candia McWilliams What to look for in Winter.
The story of the passport and Potts; the curtsey to the Dame when Mc Williams was heavily laid ill with influenza in the infirmary;
the health visitor who suggests that McWilliams, winner of a competition at Vogue magazine while still at Sherborne, a person rightly a despoiler of lazy word lists, who is a cognoscenti and knows the difference between a decorative line and a drawing one; learnt it from the bottom of ladders; this person, Cambridge graduate, intellectual heavy weight, writer of crystal prose, should after the birth of her second child, perhaps take some ‘A’ levels to give her another interest in life.
The incident is recounted in two soaring lines.
Mc Williams prose is unbeatable I cannot do better than quote snippets:
‘Sowing hems with smoke..’
‘Red tulips with reflexed petals and thin stems like veins..’
'I don’t have these sleeps these days because I get stuck in my writing but because I get stuck at that point, around two o’clock, in my day.'
‘Three chimneys measured themselves along those wide trees and the long line of the roof offered its shadows along the lawn and the lower reaches of the trees whose individual leaves were still holding sparkling doses of light.'
She is a writer who can write, easily up there with Simon Gray,a passing example; her company a delight.
I expected this to be a memoir about dealing with blindness, but it really is not. This is a memoir that seems to be simultaneously about everything and nothing at all. McWilliam covers the entirety of her life, and jumps around throughout. The memoir is written in stream-of-consciousness format, and the tone is depressing. Certainly McWilliam has experienced difficult and tragedy. Her mother committed suicide, and McWilliam is a recovering alcoholic. Still, the tone is terribly woeful. I've read plenty of memoirs about horrible things, and this one is particularly depressing. Much of the author's time is spent analyzing her relationships with her ex-husbands.
All of this said, McWilliam is quite a writer. She has some beautiful turns of phrase. Her technical writing ability is quite amazing. But this memoir is completely inaccessible. The writer seems to have little awareness of the benefits she reaped from growing up among the intelligentsia. I love the literary world in which McWilliam lives, but I found this memoir to be dull, slow going.
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