scriptures of madness

Today has been much lighter so am now reading fiction again, spurred on by a great piece in the Evening Standard on Monday on Sebastian Barry's latest book, The Secret Scripture.  I don't usually buy hardback unless I really really want it, and I did!  Then my sister called me and just casually mentioned that she too had read of the book, although she didn't know the title, only a bit of the story, not knowing I'd already bought it!  The story is that of a hundred year old woman who, it seems, has been in Roscommon mental hospital for over fifty years.  It is alternately narrated by the doctor, worn down and dealing with marriage problems, and Roseanne, the main character.  I was attracted to it, and I suspect my sister was too, by the fact that it is set in a mental hospital in Ireland.  I am currently thinking about researching my own mum's troubled past.  My mum grew up in Manchester but her mother was Irish and had her sent away after her Dad died, first to a convent in Liverpool, then, at seventeen, to a very large mental institution in the Ribble Valley, where she was to stay for seven years - it was not for medical reasons, but for social.  It can never be denied that my mum has always had a 'difficult' character and quite a few 'issues' but to be sent away for seven years was something else.  I want to tell her story because she's currently very poorly. Last year, six weeks after we buried our Dad, she had her first severe stroke, which left her wheelchair bound.  Then just a few weeks ago she suffered 'numerous' strokes.  I was advised by doctors to go up to Manchester as they weren't sure how long she had left.  She's still with us, but just about.  Her consultant last week said she's the worst case he's ever had - I think he was taking into account her entire 'medical' history as well.  It suddenly dawned on me that, whilst I know a lot about my mum's history, this doctor has all her notes going back years - from way before I was even born and that he knew more about her.  It was a strange feeling.  Yesterday we were told she has now got pneumonia.  It's a day by day thing and I'm trying to stay as grounded as possible.  Anyway, to add more to this chain of events leading up to the buying of this book this morning I was offered a freelance assignment at a well-known London psychiatric hospital.  I will be working in the press office, helping to keep them on the positive side of the press should former patients, for whatever reason, make the headlines!  But should writing about one's mother be done in a certain way?  That notorious French writer, Michel Houellebecq, who has often used the public space accorded to him as a writer to slate his mother (who it has to be said abandoned him to his grandmother at a young age because she wanted more freedom) has now had the tables turned on him.  His mother, in her eighties, has written her own book.  Read the story here

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