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There Were No Windows

ISBN: 1 903155 495

By Norah Hoult

Review by: Moira Richards


What a sobering read, this novel of Norah Holt's!

It narrates a woman's decline into what must be senile dementia, perhaps due to Alzheimer's disease although that is not explicitly named in the book. There Were No Windows was written some sixty years ago, when even less was known about Alzheimers than is today, and I found it a wrenching exploration of the effects of the disease. It is an unflinching exploration of what it might be like to be a victim of a condition of degenerative loss of memory and cognition.

The book is divided roughly into three sections, the first of which is narrated from the perspective of Claire Temple who realizes that she is losing her brain capacity, and that she is slowly being transformed from the gay, witty socialite that she was, into an irritating and burdensome bore. And that there is nothing she can do to prevent this. The pathos is immense as the reader learns also from Claire, about the unkind ways in which her staff and erstwhile friends treat her, and I couldn't help but feel indignant about their heartlessness.

But later, in the second section, the tale changes focus to the point of view of those other people. And so the reader comes to understand what it could be like to live with a victim of the disease. The uncomfortable realization dawns that we ourselves, in similar circumstance, might become just as unkind and brusque as those whom we so recently condemned.

This story was apparently based on the experience of a woman whom Norah Hoult actually knew. We all know that the disease has no cure, so I'll not go into any detail of the last section of the book. Suffice to say that it makes powerful and riveting reading.

There Were No Windows led me to realize too, that Alzheimer's disease is perhaps something that one should think about and make contingency plans for with one's family when one grows older. I have some half-dozen friends who have lost a person close to them, to the disease. Nothing can ease their pain, but perhaps some prior knowledge and understanding of what they and their loved one were to endure, might have prepared them in some small way, for their tragedy. Not an easy read this, but definitely a worthwhile one.

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