Category Archives: A Patient’s/Relative’s Perspective

Hodler, Ferdinand. The Dying Valentine Godé-Darel

We have to take a good hard look at our own attitude toward death and dying before we can sit quietly and without anxiety next to a terminally ill patient.
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

This quote refaces the attached article:
Looking at the Dying Patient: The Ferdinand Hodler Paintings of Valentine Godé-Darel
Pestalozzi BC. Journal of Clinical Oncology, Vol 20, No 7 (April 1), 2002: pp 1948-1950

The Swiss artist Ferdinand Hodler created a sequence of paintings documenting the death of his young lover Valentine. In the words of the article author ‘He created a series of paintings that force the viewer to face the process of dying. It may be helpful to an oncologist to sense his or her reaction to these visual stages of suffering.


Click on the article for more of the sequence of paintings…


Krishnan, Tinge (dir). Shadowscan

Two junior NHS workers are in the middle of a night shift and dealing with it in different ways. Satinda is tired and put upon while Amir is seemingly cheerful and helps pick her up. However Amir is also depressed and using drugs and self harm to help him get by. Eventually they both have to decide how to deal with their stressful lives and to live with the consequences.

The BAFTA award-winning Shadowscan (Channel 4, 18/12/2001) is director Tinge Krishnan‘s third short film. A surreal portrait of the Accident and Emergency department of a city hospital, Shadowscan is partly based on Tinge’s own experience as a junior doctor.

Director:    Tinge Krishnan
Production Company:    Disruptive
Producers:   Gary A. Holding,  Justine Leahy
Script:    Tinge Krishnan
Director of Photography:  Robbie Ryan
Year: 2001


Munch, Edvard. The Sick Child


The Sick Child 1907 Edvard Munch 1863-1944 Presented by Thomas Olsen 1939

The Sick Child 1907 Edvard Munch 1863-1944 Presented by Thomas Olsen 1939 [CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0 (Unported)]

The Sick Child touches on the fragility of life. It draws upon Munch’s personal memories, including the trauma of his sister’s death, and visits to dying patients with his doctor father. He described the 1885 painting as ‘a breakthrough in my art’ and made several subsequent versions, of which this is the fourth.

Acquired by the city of Dresden in 1928, it was displayed in the Gemäldegalerie. A decade later, the Nazis declared that Munch’s art was ‘degenerate’ and, in November 1938, all his works in German public collections were collected in Berlin for auction. The Norwegian dealer Harald Holst Halvorsen secured as many as possible, including The Sick Child, and returned them safely to Oslo. Thomas Olsen bought the painting in 1939 and gave it to the Tate. Norway fell to the Germans in 1940. Looking back, Olsen explained that his gift was stimulated by ‘my knowledge, from talks with Munch, that he felt the need of recognition in Western Europe, especially so after the advent of Hitler.’



Beaumont, Henny. Hole in the Heart: Bringing up Beth


On Mother’s Day 2004 Henny Beaumont gave birth to her third child. For the first few hours, her baby seemed no different to her two other little girls.

With stunning art and refreshing honesty, Henny describes how family life changed the moment the registrar told her and her husband that their daughter might have Down’s Syndrome. She knew that her life was over. How can this weak little baby, who would demand so much more from Henny than her other two children, and who would need an operation in order to survive, provoke such feelings of hatred and resentment? How can Henny learn to love her? And if she can’t trust her own reactions to Beth, how can she expect other people to overcome their prejudices and ignorance about her condition?

Publisher: Myriad Editions
Year: 2016
ISBN-10: 1908434929

Ball, Rachel. The Inflatable Woman

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Iris (or balletgirl-42 as she’s known on the internet dating circuit) is a zookeeper looking for love when she is diagnosed with breast cancer. Overnight, her life becomes populated with a carnival of daunting hospital characters. Despite the attempts of her friends – Maud, Granma Suggs, Larry the Monkey and a group of singing penguins – to comfort her, Iris’s fears begin to encircle her until all she has to cling to is the attention of a lighthouse keeper called sailor_buoy_39.

The Inflatable Woman combines magic realism with the grit of everyday life to create a poignant and surreal journey inside the human psyche.

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Year: 2015
ISBN-10: 140885807X



Francis, Gavin. Adventures in Human Being

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We have a lifetime’s association with our bodies, but for many of us they remain uncharted territory. In Adventures in Human Being, Gavin Francis leads the reader on a journey through health and illness, offering insights on everything from the ribbed surface of the brain to the secret workings of the heart and the womb; from the pulse of life at the wrist to the unique engineering of the foot.

Drawing on his own experiences as a doctor and GP, he blends first-hand case studies with reflections on the way the body has been imagined and portrayed over the millennia. If the body is a foreign country, then to practise medicine is to explore new territory: Francis leads the reader on an adventure through what it means to be human.

Both a user’s guide to the body and a celebration of its elegance, this book will transform the way you think about being alive, whether in sickness or in health.

Publisher: Profile Books
Year: 2015
ISBN-10: 1781253412





Bennett, Alan. Smut – two unseemly stories


The Shielding of Mrs Forbes

Graham Forbes is a disappointment to his mother, who thinks that if he must have a wife, he should have done better. Though her own husband isn’t all that satisfactory either. Still, this is Alan Bennett, so what is happening in the bedroom (and in lots of other places too) is altogether more startling, perhaps shocking, and ultimately more true to people’s predilections.

The Greening of Mrs Donaldson

Mrs Donaldson is a conventional middle-class woman beached on the shores of widowhood after a marriage that had been much like many others: happy to begin with, then satisfactory and finally dull. But when she decides to take in two lodgers, her mundane life becomes much more stimulating…

Publisher: Profile Books
Year: 2012
ISBN-10: 1846685265

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Murphy, Robert. The Body Silent: The Different World of the Disabled

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Robert Murphy was in the prime of his career as an anthropologist when he felt the first symptom of a malady that would ultimately take him on an odyssey stranger than any field trip to the Amazon: a tumor of the spinal cord that progressed slowly and irreversibly into quadriplegia. In this gripping account, Murphy explores society’s fears, myths, and misunderstandings about disability, and the damage they inflict. He reports how paralysis like all disabilities assaults people’s identity, social standing, and ties with others, while at the same time making the love of life burn even more fiercely.

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company;
Year: 2001
ISBN-10: 0393320421

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Powley, Elaine; Higson, Roger. The Arts in Medical Education: A Practical Guide

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The first edition of The Arts in Medical Education outlined the principles and methods for using arts resources in teaching aspects of the medical curriculum. The second edition has been expanded with new chapters, which enliven and enhance the teaching of some of the more challenging areas of medical practice. The book includes many colour illustrations, photographs, poems and literary extracts. It is invaluable to healthcare educators and medical professionals with teaching responsibilities, offering information, structure and inspiration. ‘There is considerable art in the practice of medicine. This book represents a practical tool to stimulate educators and learners to consider new approaches to medical education that reflect changing societal needs and practice patterns by introducing the visual and literary arts to medical education; to embrace the art of medicine. Medical schools around the world are exploring the influence of the visual arts on physician practice and understanding the nature of healing as well as suffering. We hope you will find this book an important tool in your exploration of the power and influence of the arts in medicine.’ere is considerable art in the practice of medicine. This book represents a practical tool to stimulate educators and learners to consider new approaches to medical education that reflect changing societal needs and practice patterns by introducing the visual and literary arts to medical education; to embrace the art of medicine. Medical schools around the world are exploring the influence of the visual arts on physician practice and understanding the nature of healing as well as suffering. We hope you will find this book an important tool in your exploration of the power and influence of the arts in medicine.’

Publisher: CRC Press
Year: 2013
ISBN-10: 1846195659

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Sacks, Oliver. A Leg to Stand On

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When Oliver Sacks, a physician by profession, injured his leg while climbing a mountain, he found himself in an unusual position – that of patient. The injury itself was severe, but straightforward to fix; the psychological effects, however, were far less easy to predict, explain, or resolve: Sacks experienced paralysis and an inability to perceive his leg as his own, instead seeing it as some kind of alien and inanimate object, over which he had no control. A Leg to Stand On is both an account of Sacks’ ordeal and subsequent recovery, and an exploration of the ways in which mind and body are inextricably linked.

Publisher: Picador
ISBN-10: 0330507621

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Chekhov, Anton. [Coulehan, Jack (ed).] Chekhov’s Doctors: A Collection of Chekhov’s Medical Tales

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In his brief life, Chekhov was a doctor, essayist, dramatist and a humanitarian. He saw no conflict between art and science or art and medicine. This collection of stories presents powerful portraits of doctors in their everyday lives, struggling with their own personal problems.

Publisher: Kent State University Press
Year: 2003
ISBN-10: 0873387805

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Genova, Lisa. Still Alice

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“Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. At fifty, she’s a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a renowned expert in linguistics, with a successful husband and three grown children. When she begins to grow forgetful and disoriented, she dismisses it for as long as she can until a tragic diagnosis changes her life – and her relationship with her family and the world around her – for ever.

Unable to care for herself, Alice struggles to find meaning and purpose as her concept of self gradually slips away. But Alice is a remarkable woman, and her family learn more about her and each other in their quest to hold on to the Alice they know. Her memory hanging by a frayed thread, she is living in the moment, living for each day. But she is still Alice.”

Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Year: 2015
ISBN-10: 1471140822

Miller, Sue. The Story of My Father

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“In the spring of 1986, Sue Miller found herself more and more deeply involved in caring for her father as he slipped into the grasp of Alzheimer’s disease. “The Story of My Father” is a profound, deeply moving account of her father’s final days and her own response to it. With care, restraint and consummate skill, Miller writes of her struggles to be fully with her father in his illness while confronting her own terror of abandonment, and eventually the long, hard work of grieving for him. And through this candid, painful record, she offers a rigorous, compassionate inventory of two lives, a powerful meditation on the variable nature of memory and the difficulty of weaving a truthful narrative from the threads of a dissolving life.”

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Year: 2004
ISBN-10: 0747565228

Longden, Deric. Lost For Words

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“Deric Longden’s mum was a wonderfully endearing, eccentric lady whose passions ranged from pot plants and her beloved pussycats to Buttercup Syrup which she consumed in vast quantities. She also provided comfort, advice and her own particular brand of wisdom in the years when Deric was struggling after the death of his first wife, Diana. Deric’s many happy memories include the vision of his mother’s unmistakeable backside as she charged through Marks & Spencers; the way in which she charmed everyone she met, including the surliest of youths, and her unusual technique of selling a house which involved plying potential buyers with iced buns whilst pointing out the damp patches and dodgy electrics. Strangely, it worked. Lost For Words is a funny, poignant and ultimately heartwarming book that may well make you cry, but will certainly make you laugh.”

Publisher: Corgi
Year: 1998
ISBN-10: 0552139432

Frank, Arthur W. The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, and Ethics

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“Since it was first published in 1995, The Wounded Storyteller has occupied a unique place in the body of work on illness. Both the collective portrait of a so-called “remission society” of those who suffer from some type of illness or disability and a cogent analysis of their stories within a larger framework of narrative theory, Arthur W. Frank’s book has reached a large and diverse readership including the ill, medical professionals, and scholars of literary theory.

Drawing on the work of authors such as Oliver Sacks, Anatole Broyard, Norman Cousins, and Audre Lorde, as well as from people he met during the years he spent among different illness groups, Frank recounts a stirring collection of illness stories, ranging from the well-known—Gilda Radner’s battle with ovarian cancer—to the private testimonials of people with cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, and disabilities. Their stories are more than accounts of personal suffering: they abound with moral choices and point to a social ethic.”

Publisher: University of Chicago Press (2nd edition)
Year: 2013
ISBN-10: 022600497X

Schwalbe, Will. The End of Your Life Book Club

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“Mary Anne Schwalbe is waiting for her chemotherapy treatments when Will casually asks her what she’s reading. The conversation they have grows into tradition: soon they are reading the same books so they can have something to talk about in the hospital waiting room. Their choices range from classic (Howards End) to popular (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), from fantastic (The Hobbit) to spiritual (Jon Kabat-Zinn), with many in between. We hear their passion for reading and their love for each other in their intimate and searching discussions.
A profoundly moving testament to the power of love between a child and parent, and the power of reading in our lives.”

Publisher: Two Roads
Year: 2013
ISBN-10: 1444706381


Briggs, Raymond. Ethel & Ernest: A True Story

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“Ethel and Ernest were solid members of the English working class, part of the generation that lived through the most tumultuous years of the twentieth century. They met during the Depression–she working as a maid, he as a milkman–and we follow them as they court and marry, make a home, raise their son, and cope with the dark days of World War II. Briggs’s portrayal of how his parents succeeded, or failed, in coming to terms with the events of their rapidly shifting world–the advent of radio, television, and telephones; the development of the atomic bomb; the moon landing; the social and political turmoil of the sixties–is irresistibly engaging, full of sympathy and affection, yet clear-eyed and unsentimental.”

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
Year: 1999
ISBN-10: 0375407588

Rentzenbrink, Cathy. The Last Act of Love: The Story of My Brother and His Sister

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“In the summer of 1990, Cathy’s brother Matty was knocked down by a car on the way home from a night out. It was two weeks before his GCSE results, which turned out to be the best in his school. Sitting by his unconscious body in hospital, holding his hand and watching his heartbeat on the monitors, Cathy and her parents willed him to survive. They did not know then that there are many and various fates worse than death.

This is the story of what happened to Cathy and her brother, and the unimaginable decision that she and her parents had to make eight years after the night that changed everything. It’s a story for anyone who has ever watched someone suffer or lost someone they loved or lived through a painful time that left them forever changed. Told with boundless warmth and affection, The Last Act of Love by Cathy Rentzenbrink is a heartbreaking yet uplifting testament to a family’s survival and the price we pay for love.”

Publisher: Picador
Year: 2015
ISBN-10: 1447286375

Granger, Kate. The Bright Side.


“The Bright Side tells the on-going story of a young doctor who is living with a rare and aggressive type of sarcoma that will end her life prematurely. It explores her return to work after a prolonged period of absence, her innermost thoughts and reflections about dying and her continuing interactions with health services. It also portrays her determined attitude to maintain positivity despite her tragic circumstances and her openness about dying.”

For more information and links >click here<

Granger, Kate. The Other Side

the_other_side theother3d

“A true story of one doctor’s journey as a patient coming to terms with a terminal cancer diagnosis. The hope is that by reading it healthcare professionals will be better able understand exactly what being the patient is really like and how their behaviours, no matter how small can impact massively on the people they look after. It is also a story of personal battles with control, learning how and when to relinquish this.”

For more information and links >click here<

Publisher: Kate Granger
ISBN-10: 1471625850

Pausch, Randy; Zaslow, Jeffrey. The Last Lecture: Lessons in Living

last lecture last3d

“A lot of professors give talks titled ‘The Last Lecture’. Professors are asked to consider their demise and to ruminate on what matters most to them: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? If we had to vanish tomorrow, what would we want as our legacy?
When Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was asked to give such a lecture, he didn’t have to imagine it as his last, since he had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But the lecture he gave, ‘Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams’, wasnt about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment (because time is all you have and you may find one day that you have less than you think). It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe. It was about living.
In this book, Randy Pausch has combined the humour, inspiration, and intelligence that made his lecture such a phenomenon and given it an indelible form. It is a book that will be shared for generations to come.”

Watch a recording of the lecture at YouTube – > Here <

Publisher: Two Roads
Year: 2010
ISBN-10: 0340978503

Glynne, Andy (dir). Animated Minds


“Animated Minds was conceived in 2003 as an attempt to communicate the subjective experience of mental health problems to a wider audience. The idea was simple: to take the testimony of a variety of people who have experienced mental distress, and then to try to animate their experience. The result, it was hoped, would be a series of engaging short films which would give a general audience a greater understanding of what it feels like to live with various mental difficulties.”

There are seven films in total all available to view at

Green, Justin. Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary

binky binky3d

A lost classic of underground cartooning, Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary is Justin Green’s autobiographical portrayal of his struggle with religion and his own neuroses. Binky Brown is a young Catholic battling all the usual problems of adolescence–puberty, parents, and the fear that the strange ray of energy emanating from his private parts will strike a picture of the Virgin Mary. Deeply confessional, with artwork that veers wildly between formalist and hallucinogenic, Binky Brown Meets the Holy Virgin Mary is the controversial masterpiece that invented the autobiographical graphic novel.

Publisher: McSweeney’s
Year: 2009
ISBN-10: 193478155X

Gawande, Atul. Being Mortal: Illness, Medicine and What Matters in the End

mortal_gawande mortal

For most of human history, death was a common, ever-present possibility. It didn’t matter whether you were five or fifty – every day was a roll of the dice. But now, as medical advances push the boundaries of survival further each year, we have become increasingly detached from the reality of being mortal. So here is a book about the modern experience of mortality – about what it’s like to get old and die, how medicine has changed this and how it hasn’t, where our ideas about death have gone wrong. With his trademark mix of perceptiveness and sensitivity, Atul Gawande outlines a story that crosses the globe, as he examines his experiences as a surgeon and those of his patients and family, and learns to accept the limits of what he can do.

Never before has aging been such an important topic. The systems that we have put in place to manage our mortality are manifestly failing; but, as Gawande reveals, it doesn’t have to be this way. The ultimate goal, after all, is not a good death, but a good life – all the way to the very end.

Publisher: Profile Books
Year: 2015
ISBN-10: 1846685826

Healey, Emma. Elizabeth is Missing

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Maud is forgetful. She makes a cup of tea and doesn’t remember to drink it. She sometimes thinks her daughter Helen is a total stranger. But theres one thing Maud is sure of: her friend Elizabeth is missing. The note in her pocket tells her so. And no matter who tells her to stop going on about it, Maud will get to the bottom of it. A debut novel about a mind in the grips of dementia.

Publisher: Penguin
Year: 2015
ISBN-10: 0241968186

Glatzer, Richard, Westmoreland, Wash (dirs). Still Alice

A 2014 film based on Lisa Genova’s 2007 bestselling novel of the same name. The film stars Julianne Moore as Alice Howland, a linguistics professor at Columbia diagnosed with familial Alzheimer’s disease.

Director: Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland
Writer: Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland
Year: 2014

Pinter, Harold. A Kind of Alaska

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A middle-aged woman named Deborah, who has been in a comatose state for thirty years as a result of contracting “sleepy sickness,” encephalitis lethargica, awakes with a mind still that of a sixteen-year-old. She must confront a body which seems to have aged without her prior knowledge or consent.

Publisher: Faber & Faber
ISBN-10: 0571288405

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Docter, Pete, Del Carmen, Ronaldo (dirs). Inside Out.


After young Riley is uprooted from her Midwest life and moved to San Francisco, her emotions – Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness – conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house, and school.

Director: Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen
Writer: Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley, Ronnie del Carmen
Year: 2015

There is an interesting review both of the film and some of the psychological science it draws on at the BMJ Medical Humanities blog >here<

Hilborn, Neil. OCD

Recorded at the Rustbelt Regional Poetry Slam in 2013.

If you want to listen to Neil Hilborn talk more about the genesis of the poem, his own experience of OCD and what he feels he has learned through the experience of the ‘viral’ success of this YouTube recording you could listen to this TED talk >click here<.

Granik, Debra (dir). Down to the Bone


A woman stuck in a stale marriage struggles to raise her children and manage her secret drug habit. But when winter comes to her small town, her balancing act begins to come crashing down.

Year: 2004
Director: Debra Granik
Writer: Debra Granik

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Dardenne, Jean-Pierre, Dardenne Luc (dir). Two days, one night.


Sandra, a young Belgian mother, discovers that her workmates have opted for a significant pay bonus, in exchange for her dismissal. She has only one weekend to convince her colleagues to give up their bonuses so that she can keep her job.

Year: 2014
Director: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
Writer: Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne

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Haneke, Michael (dir). Amour


Georges and Anne are an octogenarian couple. They are cultivated, retired music teachers. Their daughter, also a musician, lives in Britain with her family. One day, Anne has a stroke, and the couple’s bond of love is severely tested.

Year: 2012
Director: Michael Haneke
Writer: Michael Haneke

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Campion, Jane (dir). An Angel at my Table.


In 1920s and 1930s New Zealand, Janet Frame grows up in a poor family with lots of brothers and sisters. Already at an early age she is different from the other kids. She gets an education as a teacher but since she is considered abnormal she stays at a mental institution for eight years. Success comes when she starts to write novels.

Year: 1990
Director: Jane Campion
Writer: Laura Jones, Janet Frame

Russell, David O (dir). Silver Linings Playbook


After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own.

Year: 2012
Director: David O. Russell
Writer: David O. Russell

Faulkner, William. The Sound and the Fury

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Depicting the gradual disintegration of the Compson family through four fractured narratives, The Sound and the Fury explores intense, passionate family relationships where there is no love, only self-centredness. At its heart this is a novel about lovelessness – ‘only an idiot has no grief; only a fool would forget it. What else is there in this world sharp enough to stick to your guts?’

Publisher: Vintage Classics
Year: 1995
ISBN-10: 0099475014

White, Antonia. Beyond the Glass.

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Clara Batchelor is twenty-two. Her brief, doomed marriage to Archie over, she returns to live with her parents in the home of her childhood. She hopes for comfort but the devoutly Catholic household confines her and forms a dangerous glass wall of guilt and repression between Clara and the outside world. Clara both longs for and fears what lies beyond, and when she escapes into an exhilarating and passionate love affair her fragile identity cracks.

Beyond the Glass completes the trilogy sequel to Frost in May, which began with The Lost Traveller and The Sugar House. Although each is a complete novel in itself, together they form a brilliant portrait of a young girl’s journey to adulthood.

Publisher: Virago
Year: 2006
ISBN-10: 1844083683

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Galloway, Janice. The Trick is to Keep Breathing

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From the corner of a darkened room Joy Stone watches herself. As memories of the deaths of her lover and mother surface unbidden, life for Joy narrows – to negotiating each day, each encounter, each second; to finding the trick to keep living. Told with shattering clarity and wry wit, this is a Scottish classic fit for our time.

Publisher: Vintage Classics
Year: 2015
ISBN-10: 1784870137

Marchetto, Marissa. Cancer Vixen


“What happens when a shoe-crazy, lipstick-obsessed, wine-swilling, pasta-slurping, fashion-fanatic, about-to-get-married big-city girl cartoonist with a fabulous life finds . . . a lump in her breast?” That’s the question that sets this powerful, funny, and poignant graphic memoir in motion. In vivid color and with a taboo-breaking sense of humor, Marisa Acocella Marchetto tells the story of her eleven-month, ultimately triumphant bout with breast cancer—from diagnosis to cure, and every challenging step in between.

Publisher: Pantheon Books
Year: 2009
ISBN-10: 037571474X

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For a review on the Graphic Medicine site click >here<

Tristram, Matilda. Probably Nothing: A Diary of Not Your Average Nine Months


At 31, Matilda Tristram was 17 weeks pregnant and looking forward to having her first baby. Then she discovered she had bowel cancer.

This touching and hilarious graphic memoir, which is never morose or self-pitying, starts at the moment Matilda was diagnosed and ends when her course of chemotherapy finishes in October 2013. Recording the awkward conversations, the highs and lows of treatment, the mixed blessings of receiving ‘Get Well’ cards, and the reality of still having to queue too long for croissants, Matilda captures her experiences with style and warmth. Along the way she learns to cherish the small details of life. Her beautiful and boisterous son was born without complications and is reliably keeping her up most nights.

Publisher: Viking
Year: 2014
ISBN-10: 0241004152

Johnstone, Matthew. I Had a Black Dog

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There are many different breeds of Black Dog affecting millions of people from all walks of life. The Black Dog is an equal opportunity mongrel.
It was Winston Churchill who popularized the phrase Black Dog to describe the bouts of depression he experienced for much of his life.
Matthew Johnstone, a sufferer himself, has written and illustrated this moving and uplifting insight into what it is like to have a Black Dog as a companion and how he learned to tame it and bring it to heel.

Publisher: Robinson
Year: 2007
ISBN-10: 1845295897

Fies, Brian. Mom’s Cancer

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An honest, unflinching, and sometimes humorous look at the practical and emotional effect that serious illness can have on patients and their families, “Mom’s Cancer” is a story of hope–uniquely told in words and illustrations. Brian Fies is a freelance journalist whose mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. As he and his two sisters struggled with the effects of her illness and her ongoing recovery from treatment, Brian processed the experience in his journal, which took the form of words and pictures.

Publisher: Abrams
Year: 2010
ISBN-10: 0810971070

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Small, David. Stitches: A Memoir

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One day David Small awoke from a supposedly harmless operation to discover that he had been transformed into a virtual mute. A vocal cord removed, his throat slashed and stitched together like a bloody boot, the fourteen-year-old boy had not been told that he had cancer and was expected to die. In Stitches, Small, the award-winning children’s illustrator and author, re-creates this terrifying event in a life story that might have been imagined by Kafka. As the images painfully tumble out, one by one, we gain a ringside seat at a gothic family drama where David-a highly anxious yet supremely talented child-all too often became the unwitting object of his parents’ buried frustration and rage. Believing that they were trying to do their best, David’s parents did just the reverse. Edward Small, a Detroit physician, who vented his own anger by hitting a punching bag, was convinced that he could cure his young son’s respiratory problems with heavy doses of radiation, possibly causing David’s cancer. Elizabeth, David’s mother, tyrannically stingy and excessively scolding, ran the Small household under a cone of silence where emotions, especially her own, were hidden. Depicting this coming-of-age story with dazzling, kaleidoscopic images that turn nightmare into fairy tale, Small tells us of his journey from sickly child to cancer patient, to the troubled teen whose risky decision to run away from home at sixteen-with nothing more than the dream of becoming an artist-will resonate as the ultimate survival statement. A silent movie masquerading as a book, Stitches renders a broken world suddenly seamless and beautiful again.

Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Year: 2009
ISBN-10: 0393068579

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Lessing, Doris. The Golden Notebook

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‘The Golden Notebook’, the landmark novel by Nobel Prize winner Doris Lessing, is a powerful account of a woman searching for her personal, political and professional identity amid the trauma of emotional rejection and sexual betrayal.

In 1950s London, novelist Anna Wulf struggles with writer’s block. Divorced with a young child, and fearful of going mad, Anna records her experiences in four coloured notebooks: black for her writing life, red for political views, yellow for emotions, blue for everyday events. But it is a fifth notebook – the golden notebook – that finally pulls these wayward strands of her life together.

Publisher: Fourth Estate
Year: 2013
ISBN-10: 0007498772

Green Katie. Lighter than my Shadow

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Like most kids, Katie was a picky eater. She’d sit at the table in silent protest, hide uneaten toast in her bedroom, listen to parental threats that she’d have to eat it for breakfast.

But in any life a set of circumstance can collide, and normal behaviour might soon shade into something sinister, something deadly.

Lighter Than My Shadow is a hand-drawn story of struggle and recovery, a trip into the black heart of a taboo illness, an exposure of those who are so weak as to prey on the vulnerable, and an inspiration to anybody who believes in the human power to endure towards happiness.

Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Year: 2013
ISBN-10: 0224090984

24page preview

Explore the website >here<


Cook, David. Walter: a novel


Some call him ‘backward’, some say he’s ‘handicapped’, and others just think of him as a joke. But Walter’s parents stand between him and the world. Till one day Jesus comes and takes Eric away and not long after that He comes for Sarah, too. Walter prays to Jesus, asking Him to change His mind- and then Walter and the pigeons sit in Sarah’s room, waiting for her to wake up.

Publisher: Penguin Books
Year: 1982
ISBN-10: 0140065288

(spoiler alert)

Irving, John. A son of the circus

circus circus3d

‘The doctor was fated to go back to Bombay; he would keep returning again and again – if not forever, at least for as long as there were dwarves in the circus.’

Born a Parsi in Bombay, sent to university and medical school in Vienna, Dr Farrokh Daruwalla is a Canadian citizen – a 59-year-old orthopaedic surgeon, living in Toronto. Once, twenty years ago, Dr Daruwalla was the examining physician of two murder victims in Goa. Now, two decades later, the doctor will be reacquainted with the murderer…

Publisher: Black Swan
Year: 1995
ISBN-10: 055299605X

Leavitt, Sarah.Tangles: Alzheimer’s, My Mother, and Me

tangles tangles3d

What do you do when your outspoken, passionate, and quick-witted mother starts fading into a forgetful, fearful woman? In this powerful graphic memoir, Sarah Leavitt reveals how Alzheimer’s disease transformed her mother Midge–and her family–forever.In spare black and white drawings and clear, candid prose, Sarah shares her family’s journey through a harrowing range of emotions–shock, denial, hope, anger, frustration–all the while learning to cope, and managing to find moments of happiness. Midge, a Harvard-educated intellectual, struggles to comprehend the simplest words; Sarah’s father Rob slowly adapts to his new role as full-time caretaker, but still finds time for word-play and poetry with his wife; Sarah and her sister Hannah argue, laugh, and grieve together as they join forces to help Midge get to sleep, rage about family friends who have disappeared, or collapse in tears at the end of a heartbreaking day.”Tangles” provides a window on the complexity of Alzheimer’s disease, and ultimately opens a knot of moments, memories, and dreams to reveal a bond between a mother and a daughter that will never come apart.

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
Year: 2012
ISBN-10: 1616086394

Read a review on Graphic Medicine site >here<

Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men.

micenmen mice3d

Streetwise George and his big, childlike friend Lennie are drifters, searching for work in the fields and valleys of California. They have nothing except the clothes on their back, and a hope that one day they’ll find a place of their own and live the American dream. But dreams come at a price. Gentle giant Lennie doesn’t know his own strength, and when they find work at a ranch he gets into trouble with the boss’s daughter-in-law. Trouble so bad that even his protector George may not be able to save him …

Publisher: Penguin Classics
Year: 2006
ISBN-10: 0141023570

(spoiler alert)

Holden J, Kieffer J, Newbigin J, Wright S. Where Does It Hurt? The New World of the Medical Humanities

 where hurt wherhurt4d

Where does it Hurt: The New World of Medical Humanities is a compilation of forty short essays edited by John Holden, John Kieffer, John Newbigin, and Shelagh Wright for the Wellcome Trust. It sets out to explore definitions of the medical humanities and allow people to visualise what it might entail by giving examples of practical applications of the arts and humanities to concepts of health and wellbeing.

Publisher: Wellcome Trust
Year: 2014
ISBN-13: 978-0-9570285-7-9

You can download a copy here

Czerwiec MK, Williams I, Squier SM, Green MJ, Myers KR, Smith ST. Graphic Medicine Manifesto

graphicmed graphicmed4d

This inaugural volume in the Graphic Medicine series establishes the principles of graphic medicine and begins to map the field. The volume combines scholarly essays written by the editorial team with previously unpublished visual narratives by Ian Williams and MK Czerwiec and includes comic avatars by a wide range of graphic medicine contributors—all in an arresting format. The first section comprises essays by Scott Smith and Susan Squier. It argues that as a new area of scholarship, research on graphic medicine has the potential to challenge the boundaries of conventional academic disciplines, to raise questions about their foundations, and to reinvigorate literary scholarship—and the notion of the literary text—for a broader audience. The second section, incorporating essays by Michael Green and Kimberly Myers, demonstrates that graphic medicine narratives have the potential to engage members of the health professions with literary and visual representation and symbolic practices, offering patients, family members, physicians, and other caregivers new ways to experience and work with the challenges and complexity of the medical experience. The final section, featuring essays by Ian Williams and MK Czerwiec, focuses on the practice of creating graphic narratives; iconography used in the graphic narrative; drawing as social practice; and the nature of comics as visual rhetoric. A conclusion (in comics form) testifies to the diverse and growing community that is graphic medicine. Finally, two bibliographies—one of comics and the other of scholarly references—provide a valuable resource for readers.

Publisher: Pennsylvania State University Press,
Year: 2015
ISBN-10: 0271066490

Farya (Write to Life member). Lampedusa


Write to Life is the creative writing group of Freedom from Torture. In the twelve years of our existence, we’ve grown from a small group of clients writing for each other, to a thriving family of twenty or so, who read all over the country, write for online and print publications, and star in both live theatre and film.

The linked poem was published on their website in 2014: “In light of the shipwrecks in the Mediterranean recently we highlight a commemorative poem by Write to Life member Faryad”

Link > Lampedusa <

Darling, Julie, Fuller Cynthia (eds). The Poetry Cure


This book of poems is for all of us who go through illness, deal with doctors, hospitals, and experiences such as bereavement and ageing, and who struggle to find language to describe the suffering we have to go through. Medical language baffles and alienates us. It’s a harsh, unforgiving vocabulary that often seems to bear no relationship to our own emotional predicament. In this uplifting anthology we see how poetry can give us metaphors and images to help us understand our feelings and communicate them to people around us. This is a book that should be in every waiting-room, and should be by the bed of every GP and consultant. It may inspire you to write poetry, and also help you to find order in the chaos of ill health. By giving us words, poetry can help cure us.

Publisher: Bloodaxe Books
Year: 2005
ISBN-10: 1852246901

Brooks, James L (dir). Terms of Endearment


Aurora and Emma are mother and daughter who march to different drummers. Beginning with Emma’s marriage, Aurora shows how difficult and loving she can be. The movie covers several years of their lives as each finds different reasons to go on living and find joy. Aurora’s interludes with Garrett Breedlove, retired astronaut and next door neighbor are quite striking. In the end, different people show their love in very different ways.

Producers: James L. Brooks
Year: 1983
Director: James L. Brooks
Writer: James L. Brooks

(spoiler alert)

Greengrass, Paul (dir). The Theory of Flight


A dreamer who aspires to human flight is assigned public service after one of his attempts off a public building. This leads him to meeting a young woman, who is dying of motor neurone disease. The strong-willed woman admits her wish to be de-flowered before her death. The man, struggling to maintain his relationship with his girl friend, declines but offers to help pay for a gigolo to do the deed. The following events play off the inherent comedy and drama of the circumstances.

Producers: Ruth Caleb, Anant Singh, Helena Spring
Year: 1998
Director: Paul Greengrass
Writer: Richard Hawkins


Miller, George (dir). Lorenzo’s Oil


A boy develops a disease so rare that nobody is working on a cure, so his father decides to learn all about it and tackle the problem himself.

Producers: Doug Mitchell, George Miller
Year: 1992
Director: George Miller
Writer: George Miller, Nick Enright

(spoiler alert)

Figgis, Mike (dir). Mr Jones


The story about the relationship between a manic depressive man, Mr Jones, and the female doctor who takes more than a professional interest in his treatment.

Producers:Debra Greenfield, Alan Greisman
Year: 1993
Director: Mike Figgis
Writer: Eric Roth, Michael Cristofer

Mandoki, Luis (dir). When a Man Loves a Woman


An airline pilot and his wife are forced to face the consequences of her alcoholism when her addictions threaten her life and their daughter’s safety. While the woman enters detox, her husband must face the truth of his enabling behavior.

Producers: Jon Avnet
Year: 1994
Director: Luis Mandoki
Writer: Ronald Bass, Al Franken

mind_on_film (spoiler alert)

McGuiness, Frank. A Short Stay in Switzerland

This TV programme is made available via the Education Recording Agency (ERA) licence, as such the following link will only work via a computer on the HYMS network.

>click here<

Having recently witnessed the death of her husband from a neurological disease, Anne Turner is diagnosed with a near-identical illness and determines to end her life once her condition has reached a critical point.

As her health deteriorates, Anne’s son and two daughters struggle to reach a consensus over their mother’s intentions and while they search for alternative options, silent recriminations and stubborn practicality threaten to tear the family apart. With her family at logger heads, Anne must also face the fury of her best friend, whose opposing views bring them into direct conflict.

Oz, Frank (dir). What about Bob?


A successful psychotherapist loses his mind after one of his most dependent patients, a manipulative, obsessively compulsive narcissist, tracks him down during his family vacation.

Producers: Laura Ziskin
Year: 1991
Director: Frank Oz
Writer: Tom Schulman

Winkler, Irwin (dir). Life as a House


When a man is diagnosed with terminal cancer, he takes custody of his misanthropic teenage son, for whom quality time means getting high, engaging in small-time prostitution, and avoiding his father.

Producers: Rob Cowan, Irwin Winkler
Year: 2001
Director: Irwin Winkler
Writer: Mark Andrus

Goldberg, Garry David (dir). Dad


A busy, “always-on-the-run” executive learns during a meeting that his mother may be dying and rushes home to her side. He ends up being his father’s caretaker and becomes closer to him than ever before. In the process, he teaches his father to be more independent which causes problems with the man’s wife. Estranged from his own son, the executive comes to realize what has been missing in his own life.

Producers: Gary David Goldberg, Joseph Stern
Year: 1989
Director: Gary David Goldberg
Writer: Gary David Goldberg, William Wharton

Haynes, Todd (dir). [Safe]


Set in an affluent neighbourhood of the San Fernando Valley in 1987, the film recounts the life of a seemingly unremarkable homemaker, Carol White (Julianne Moore) who develops multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS, also known as “Twentieth-Century Disease”).

Producer: Christine Vachon
Year: 1995
Director: Todd Haynes
Writer: Todd Haynes

(spoiler alert)

button_hyms (teaching resource – medically unexplained symptoms)

Eyre, Richard (dir). Iris


A biographical film that tells the story of novelist Iris Murdoch and her relationship with John Bayley. The film contrasts the start of their relationship, when Murdoch (Kate Winslet) was an outgoing, dominant individual as compared to her timid and scholarly partner Bayley (Hugh Bonneville), and their later life, when Murdoch (Judi Dench) was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and tended to by a frustrated Bayley (Jim Broadbent) in their North Oxford home in Charlbury Road.

(spoiler alert)

Allen, Woody (dir). Hannah and her Sisters


Hannah and Her Sisters is a 1986 American comedy-drama film which tells the intertwined stories of an extended family over two years that begins and ends with a family Thanksgiving dinner.

Producers: Robert Greenhut
Year: 1986
Director: Woody Allen
Writer: Woody Allen

button_hyms (teaching resource – doctor-patient communication and somatisation)

button_hyms (teaching resource – doctor-patient communication and anxiety)

button_hyms (teaching resource – infertility)

Brooks, James L. As Good as it Gets


New York City. Melvin Udall, a cranky, bigoted, obsessive-compulsive writer, finds his life turned upside down when neighbouring gay artist Simon is hospitalised and his dog is entrusted to Melvin. In addition, Carol, the only waitress who will tolerate him, must leave work to care for her sick son, making it impossible for Melvin to eat breakfast.

Producers: James L. Brooks, Bridget Johnson, Kristi Zea
Year: 1997
Director: James L. Brooks
Writer: Mark Andrus, James L. Brooks

button_hyms (teaching resource – obsessive compulsive disorder)


Haines, Randa (dir). The Doctor.


Jack McKee is a doctor with it all: he’s successful, he’s rich, and he has no problems…. until he is diagnosed with throat cancer. Now that he has seen medicine, hospitals, and doctors from a patient’s perspective, he realises that there is more to being a doctor than surgery and prescriptions.

Producers: Laura Ziskin
Year: 1991
Director: Randa Haines
Writer: Robert Caswell

Joffé, Roland (dir). City of Joy


Hasari Pal (Om Puri) is a rural farmer who moves to Calcutta with his wife (Shabana Azmi) and three children in search of a better life. They are cheated out of their rent money and thrown out on the streets, and it’s difficult for Hasari to find a job to support them.
Meanwhile, on the other end of Calcutta, Max Lowe (Patrick Swayze), a doctor disillusioned by an easy job in a Houston hospital, has arrived in search of spiritual enlightenment after the loss of a patient there. However, he encounters misfortune as soon as he arrives.
Hasari comes to Max’s aid and takes the injured doctor to the “City of Joy,” a slum area populated with lepers and poor people that becomes the Pals’ new home and the American’s home away from home.

Producers:Jake Eberts, Roland Joffé
Year: 1992
Director: Roland Joffé
Writer: Mark Medoff

Hicks, Scott (dir). Shine.


Based on the true story of Australian pianist David Helfgott, this delightful movie charts the traumatic early years through adulthood. Telling the story in flashback we see David as a child prodigy and as he grows up while his patriarchal father abuses him and his siblings with the memory of his childhood in Europe and the loss of his family in the concentration camps. David finally breaks away from his father and goes away to study overseas, he later suffers a breakdown and returns to Australia and a life in an institution. Many years later he is released and through several twists of fate (in reality even more unlikely than film portrays) he starts playing a piano in a bar before finally returning to the concert hall.

Producers: Jane Scott
Year: 1996
Director: Scott Hicks
Writer: Scott Hicks

Cellan Jones, Simon (dir). Some Voices

The film’s central character, Ray (Daniel Craig), has schizophrenia. The story begins with Ray’s discharge from psychiatric hospital. Ray’s devoted brother Pete (David Morrissey) picks him up and drives Ray to his new abode, the spare room in Pete’s West London flat. Pete is a chef who works long hours in the café (a traditional ‘greasy spoon’ during the day and a trendy eatery in the evening) that he inherited from his father. He now has to find the time to take care of Ray and monitor the medication that controls the voices in his head.

Producers: Damian Jones, Graham Broadbent
Year: 2000
Director: Simon Cellan Jones
Writer: Joe Penhall

Frears, Stephen (dir). Dirty pretty things


Okwe is an illegal Nigerian immigrant leading a hard life and struggling to survive in London’s underground. He works as a hotel receptionist in the night time and as he has a doctor degree he practices some medicine, during the day, in a very odd way. Besides that he must constantly escape from Immigration officers. One day Okwe discovers by chance an illegal scheme of surgeries is being lead by Juan, his boss in the hotel. Juan quickly comes up with a tempting proposal: if Okwe accepts to perform the illegal surgeries he makes a lot of money and gets legalized situation in the U.K. Can Okwe keep his moral values intact?

Producers: Robert Jones, Tracey Seaward
Year: 2002
Director: Stephen Frears
Writer: Steven Knight

(spoiler alert)

Koster, Henry (dir). Harvey


Due to his insistence that he has an invisible six-foot rabbit for a best friend, a whimsical middle-aged man is thought by his family to be insane – but he may be wiser than anyone knows.

Producers: John Beck
Year: 1950
Director: Henry Koster
Writer: Mary Chase, Oscar Brodney, Myles Connolly

(spoiler alert)

Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures.

falldown  falldown3d

When three-month-old Lia Lee Arrived at the county hospital emergency room in Merced, California, a chain of events was set in motion from which neither she nor her parents nor her doctors would ever recover. Lia’s parents, Foua and Nao Kao, were part of a large Hmong community in Merced, refugees from the CIA-run “Quiet War” in Laos. The Hmong, traditionally a close-knit and fiercely independent people, have been less amenable to assimilation than most immigrants, adhering steadfastly to the rituals and beliefs of their ancestors. Lia’s pediatricians, Neil Ernst and his wife, Peggy Philip, cleaved just as strongly to another tradition: that of Western medicine. When Lia Lee Entered the American medical system, diagnosed as an epileptic, her story became a tragic case history of cultural miscommunication.

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Year: 1997
ISBN-10: 0374525641

(spoiler alert)

Almodóvar, Pedro. The skin I live in.

Quad_Skin I Live In_AW.indd

A brilliant plastic surgeon, haunted by past tragedies, creates a type of synthetic skin that withstands any kind of damage. His guinea pig: a mysterious and volatile woman who holds the key to his obsession.

Producers: Agustín Almodóvar, Pedro Almodóvar
Year: 2011
Director: Pedro Almodóvar
Writer: Pedro Almodóvar

Mangold, James (dir). Girl Interrupted.

Based on writer Susanna Kaysen’s account of her 18-month stay at a mental hospital in the 1960s.

Producers: Douglas Wick, Cathy Konrad, Winona Ryder (executive), Carol Bodie (executive)
Year: 1999
Director: James Mangold
Writers: James Mangold, Linda Loomer, Anna Hamilton Palmer

Bhave, Sumitra; Sukthankar, Sunil (dirs). Devrai

Devrai is the story of Shesh Shahi (Atul Kulkarni), a brilliant but eccentric man. While living with his family in a village in the Konkan region of the state of Maharashtra in India, Shesh becomes increasingly obsessed with a small patch of forest near his home which he calls as “Devrai” (meaning ‘sacred grove’ in Marathi) and starts o feel that the perfect harmony between the biological factors in Devrai offer a solution to the chaos which he perceives in the outside world. He is later diagnosed with schizophrenia and his younger sister Seena Gore (Sonali Kulkarni) tries to cure him by seeking professional help.

Producers: Schizophrenia Awareness Association
Year: 2004
Director: Sumitra Bhave, Sunil Sukthankar

Mc Carthy Woolf, Karen. An aviary of small birds

aviary  aviary3d

An Aviary of Small Birds is both elegy to a stillborn son and testament to the redemptive qualities of poetry as a transformative art. The book opens at the birth, which paradoxically becomes the moment of death when, after a long labor and an emergency caesarean, the baby’s heart gives out. For the mother, her body flooded with endorphins, euphoria gives way to shock, followed by an intense and visceral grief. However, just as grief itself is not linear, so too the book follows an emotional rather than a strictly chronological arc, lyric rather than narrative. At the same time, Karen McCarthy Woolf’s debut work is a formal experimentation that allows an intellectual and metaphysical line of enquiry to emerge. Ultimately, it is a closely felt connection with the natural world, particularly with water and birds, which allows the author to transcend the experience while honoring the spirit of her son.

Publisher: OxfordPoets
Year: 2014
ISBN-10: 1906188149

B, David. Epileptic

epil epil3d

The most acclaimed European graphic novel of the last ten years, Epileptic is David B.’s story of his brother’s battle with epilepsy – but it turns into a penetrating and sometimes lacerating self-examination on the author’s part, as he delves into his own complex emotions and his family’s troubled history, as well as his own youthful fantasy life. Particularly pointed is his description of the family journey from one attempted cure to another, including acupuncture, spiritualism and macrobiotics.

Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Year: 2006
ISBN-10: 0224079204

(spoiler alert)

Buehler, Phillip. Woody Guthrie’s Wardy Forty: Greystone Park State Hospital Revisited


Through never-before-published letters, historic family photographs, and rare personal interviews, Woody Guthrie’s Wardy Forty explores the five years Woody spent at Greystone Park State Hospital in New Jersey. Woody was a patient there from 1956 – 1961, in Ward 40 and called it “Wardy Forty.” Through contemporary photographs of the now-abandoned hospital, these years are brought to life and provide a mysterious glimpse into a deserted bygone era.

Picoult, Jodi. My Sister’s Keeper


Anna Fitzgerald doesn’t want her sister to die. But she’s sick of helping her to live.
Anna was born to be a perfect genetic match for Kate, who at just two years old was diagnosed with a rare form of leukaemia. For thirteen years, she has acted as donor to her sister.
Now, Kate needs a kidney, and nobody is asking Anna how she feels about it, they’re just assuming she will donate.
Until the Sheriff serves the papers that will rock their family’s world: Anna is suing her parents for the rights to her own body . . .

Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks
Year 2013
ISBN-10: 1444754343

Pharmacopoeia. Cradle to Grave


Cradle to Grave explores our approach to health in Britain today. The piece incorporates a lifetime supply of prescribed drugs knitted into two lengths of fabric, illustrating the medical stories of one woman and one man.

Each length contains over 14,000 drugs, the estimated average prescribed to every person in Britain in their lifetime. This does not include pills we might buy over the counter, which would require about 40,000 pills each.

Cradle to Grave is displayed in the British Museum in the ‘Living and Dying’ exhibition room (The Wellcome Trust Gallery)

There is an excellent website that explores the artwork in more detail and lets you look individually at the ‘man’ and ‘woman’ whose stories are told in the piece.>click here<

Just as an example of some of the patterns represented in the work the two screen grabs below show the pills consumed before the age of 50 – with the impact of contraceptive pill use apparent simply in the longer band for the woman (don’t worry the man soon catches up!)




Alexander, SH. She Touched the World: Laura Bridgman, Deaf-Blind Pioneer



When she was just two years old, Laura Bridgman lost her sight, her hearing, and most of her senses of smell and taste. At the time, no one believed a child with such severe disabilities could be taught to communicate, much less lead a full and productive life. But then a progressive doctor, who had just opened the country’s first school for the blind in Boston, took her in. Laura learned to communicate, read, and write—and eventually even to teach. By the age of 12, she was world famous.
Audiences flocked to see her, and she was loved and admired by children everywhere. This fascinating and moving biography shows how Laura Bridgman paved the way for future generations of children with disabilities, making possible important advances in the way they would be educated. As a blind person with some hearing loss, Sally Hobart Alexander lends a unique and intimate perspective to this inspiring account. At last, the story of Laura Bridgman can find its long-deserved place alongside those of Louis Braille and Helen Keller.

Publisher: Clarion Books
Year: 2008
ISBN-10: 0618852999

Goffman, E. Stigma

The dwarf, the disfigured, the blind man, the homosexual, the ex-mental patient and the member of a racial or religious minority all share one characteristic: they are all socially “abnormal”, and therefore in danger of being considered less then human. Whether ordinary people react by rejection, by over-hearty acceptance or by plain embarrassment, their main concern is with such an individual’s deviance, not with the whole of his personality. “Stigma” is a study of situations where normal and abnormal meet, and of the ways in which a stigmatized person can develop a more positive social and personal identity.

Author: Goffman, Ernest

Title: Stigma

ISBN: 0140124756

Peeters, Frederick. Blue Pills a positive love story

One summer night at a teenage house party, Fred met Cati.Though they barely spoke, he vividly remembers her gracefulness juxtaposed with a wonderful, wild abandon. They meet again at a New Year’s Party in 1999, and this time their connection is instantaneous. A few weeks later, when it looks like things might get serious, a very nervous Cati tells him that she and her three-year-old son are both HIV positive. With great beauty and economy, Peeters’ traces the development of their emotional and sexual intimacy. The silver lining in their lives is the wonderful, down-to-earth doctor whose affection and frankness allow them to confront their fears about sex and fully realize their passionate connection. But when Cati’s son gets sick and they have to administer a gruelling treatment (including the blue pills of the title), Fred comes face to face with death. His questions about life, love and illness are played out in a Socratic dialogue with a (very wise) mammoth who ultimately helps him to recognize that living with illness is also a gift; it has freed him to savour his life with Cati.
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Year: 2008
ISBN-10: 0224082396

Viewer Comments:

I enjoyed this graphic novel. Frank and insightful in it’s handling of relationships against the background of HIV in the age of HAART. I do like the way graphic novels allow new ways of expressing inner thoughts.

Kington, M. How shall I tell the Dog?

Perhaps the antidote to John Diamond and Ruth Picardie? This is another dying journalist – but this time the emphasis is definitely on humour, except of course …. he is dying. The book is a sequence of letters by the humourist Miles Kington to his literary agent suggesting book titles that he could write, to make ‘…cancer work for its living‘. Written after his diagnosis with pancreatic cancer, this is a very funny book and although it doesn’t set out to pass on deep messages about life and death, I sort of feel it does.

Publisher: Profile Books
Year: 2008
ISBN: 1846681979

Viewer Comments:


I thought I’d share a chapter in full….

The Will to Live

Dear Gill

Here’s an idea…

One of the cancer specialists at the hospital told me that statistically my chances of getting through another year were not great.

‘But statistics are misleading,’ he said. ‘You could be the exception who goes on and on. I have seen it happen. It all depends on your will to live.’

‘How’s my will to live?’ I said.

‘I’ve no idea,’ he said. ‘That’s up to you.’

I was amazed.

I was so used to having tests done on everything that I assumed there’d be a test for that as well.

If they take blood from you they can test the blood for almost everything – iron level, genes, bilirubin, whatever the man needs to know.

Why not the will to live?

So, Gill, Test Your Own Will to Live! Why not?



Anonymous. The four forms of the doctor

These four images show an interesting progression in the perception of a doctor – from saint to satan.

  • In the first picture the doctor is heaven sent – there are broken bones to mend, patients in extremis
  • In the second he is hard at work – seen as a ministering angel
  • By picture number three his work is done, his patients restored to health
  • But in picture four we discover how he is seen when the bills are due – the devil incarnate

These pictures, painted in the early 1600’s, are part of the collection of the Museum Boerhaave in Leiden in the Netherlands (the Dutch National Museum of Science and Medicine) – you can visit the website here  (or click on any of the pictures.)

Viewer Comments:

These pictures form the frontispiece of Kenneth Calman’s book ‘Medical Education Past Present and Future’, I thought they were fabulous and a great reminder that the image of ‘the doctor’ is never fixed and not always positive!

Garcia Marquez, G. One Hundred Years of Solitude

The novel tells the story of the rise and fall of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendi family. It is a rich and brilliant chronicle of life and death, and the tragicomedy of humankind.

Author: Garcia
Marquez, Gabriel

Title: One Hundred Years of Solitude
Publisher: New York : HarperCollins
Year: 1991
ISBN: 0060919655