My next book of memoirs is the harrowingly beautiful, What To Look For In Winter, A Memoir in Blindness, by Candia McWilliam. It kept coming up as a recommendation on Amazon, not that I ever take notice, this time it seemed to haunt me each of the many times it appeared. A 'writer's book' about 'loss, blindness, depression' and so on was not what I needed at a time when I wasn't doing too good myself. Yet something drew me to order it.
Her prose is astonishingly beautiful, perceptive and brutally self-deprecating. She recounts her neglectful Scottish childhood with delight and charm yet piercing honesty about her state of mind. I too spent many summers in the Scottish Highlands and I felt the warmth of her experience on Colonsay (an island not far by water from my weavers on Mull). I loved her episode where she went to work at Vogue after coming down from Oxford. She just couldn't cope with the kind of person that she had to be in that office, despite considerable leeway given to her by today's cut-throat standards. She couldn't face it and seemingly stayed in bed until she came clean that she wasn't coming back. It showed remarkable self-awareness, though such awareness can't make it any easier. Most people would battle through and change to fit the environment, but the beauty of her is that she simply coudn't and that must have been a hard hand to be dealt.
Despite the misery and the ordeals she went through, her prose and honesty seem to shine through with such spirit that I felt lifted by this work. Despite pain and suffering, the ability to see the humour and, dare I say, beauty in it, and move forwards is how you get through.