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Now, I realise that this is supposed to be a book review, but, please, indulge me for a moment. Allow me to set the scene - I promise,it will be relevant, you'll see... It is just before Christmas, the season of peace and goodwill to all men. We have guests at home. One of them picks up the book that I had been reading prior to their arrival, and looks at the plainish cover. "Ah, a local author, I see" he comments. (local being Cornwall) "Yes", I reply, busy handing out nuts and nibbles. "Is it good?" he continues. "Yes,very." (still preoccupied with filling wine glasses) "What's it about,then?" "It's about a man who is dying from A.I.D.S..." Silence falls throughout the room. All polite conversation instantly ceases. The enquirer drops the book as though it is contagious and hurriedly changes the subject. Later, when all the guests have left, my elderly father berates me for leaving the book in plain sight - and for reading such 'filth' in the first place... The book in question was " 'it'. A wife's journey through..." (sic). It is the true story of a wife who nursed her husband through A.I.D.S until his eventual death. And, the supreme irony is that the A.I.D.S sufferer was as homophobic as some of my Christmas guests , a fully paid up subscriber to the idea of a "Gay Plague" and the "they brought it on themselves, didn't they?" brigade. Jill Lamede states at the beginning of her powerful and emotive book "Let's get one thing clear from the start. R.T. was not 'at risk'.He was not homosexual or bisexual." In fact, it was never discovered exactly how R.T. contracted the disease. It may have been from a blood transfusion - or just from living the life of a typical batchelor in the 1970's - but contract it he did. So gre
at was the perceived stigma, that R.T preferred to tell people that he was suffering from leukaemia to explain his alarming physical symptoms.Throughout his illness he had two main concerns.One was that he would be forced to associate with 'gay' people at clinics and hospices. The second was that 'A.I.D.S.' would appear on his death certificate, causing his friends and family to speculate about his sexuality. Only after his death was his wife allowed to tell his story - and this book is the result. Jill kept diaries from the day on which R.T was diagnosed and it is from these that the material from the book is drawn. It is not a long book - only 114 pages in all, each chapter headed by a date from 1994 to January 1996, with an epilogue and postscript which tell the reader how Jill has coped following R.T's death. Yet each page has the potential to make the reader either laugh out loud - or cry tears of frustration at this man who was both brave and cowardly, bigoted and humble and lovable yet hateful at the same time. The book is by no means an easy read. The authoress describes in some detail the physical symptoms brought about by this terrible disease. She tells of the treatment received - good and bad - from the various doctors and consultants who tried to ease R.T's suffering. She talks of the various agencies like the local council, D.S.S. and the charities she approached for help when the money began to run out. But most of all, she takes the reader on an emotional roller coaster, letting us know what it actually feels like to be diagnosed with A.I.D.S. and, most importantly, how it feels when the diagnosis is unexpectedly handed to someone you love. For this is truly a love story. A love story filled with rage and frustration, pain and even hate on occasions - but a love story nonetheless, and one that comes directly from the heart to hit the reader somewhere in the region of the solar plexus. And it is absol
ute proof that A.I.D.S is not just something which happens to other people, who have different sexual preferences or questionnable drug habits... this is a real disease with horrifying and devastating consequences which could happen to anyone. I hate to criticise such a poignant and beautifully written book, but I had two very minor niggles. The first was that the authoress referred to everyone by their initials rather than using names. I can understand why, but nevertheless found it slightly irritating. The second was that, despite telling the reader at the end that she had arranged to go for an A.I.D.S test herself, the authoress didn't reveal the results. ( again, understandable, although it left the book slightly 'unfinished' for me). The book contains a useful appendix, listing books and contacts for people who may be unfortunate enough to find themselves in R.T's position. It is without doubt a harrowing account. Yet, in the way that the late Princess Diana 'shocked' the world by openly hugging A.I.D.S. victims, this book will undoubtedly shock the reader. Hopefully,it will also change attitudes...and, as my guests illustrated, there are attitudes which are in desperate need of changing. " 'it' A wife's journey through...." - Jill Lamede - Rough Tor Press ISBN 0 9530905 0 7
A wife's account of her husbands suffering and ultimate death due to A.I.D.S.