Newest Review: ... She seems to accept that he needed to sow his wild oats and get things out of his system. She displays a remarkable lack of bi... more
Don't cry because it's over; Smile because it happened
Unbreakable: My Life with Paul - Lindsey Hunter
Member Name: CarolineR-D
Unbreakable: My Life with Paul - Lindsey Hunter
Advantages: Moving, inspiring
Disadvantages: Sad, Graphic detail about Paul's cancer treatment
The book paints an interesting picture of someone young, coping with fame and at times getting out of his depth. Paul Hunter grew up on a Leeds council estate. As a three year old he amused himself by trying to hit marbles with a chopstick, so his parents got him his first snooker table for Christmas. He was going to snooker clubs regularly with his father from the age of eight and had turned professional by the age of 16. Lindsey makes the pertinent point that when someone is playing snooker for ten hours a day they don't develop an abundance of social skills. She is frank about Paul's immaturity and lack of structure in his life and how it affected their relationship in the early years. This is not a sickly love at first sight story. Lindsey's portrayal of Paul is of someone flawed, but no less charming, cheeky and loveable. Lindsey's first impressions of Paul were of a 'daft kid' with too much time on his hands. In her opinion, snooker was not a proper job. Four years his senior, Lindsey comes across as the sensible, stabilising influence in his life. What strikes me about the writing style is just how astonishingly charitable Lindsey is when she speaks of Paul's two-timing ways in the early years of their relationship. She seems to accept that he needed to sow his wild oats and get things out of his system. She displays a remarkable lack of bitterness over the stolen years, the fact that they could have got together sooner and had longer together if Paul hadn't spent so much time dithering and going back to his ex girlfriend.
It did make me wonder how this volatile relationship would have fared if Paul hadn't become ill and died, whether the lure of girls, booze and drugs would have ultimately got in the way of the couple's happiness. Would the blond haired, 'Beckham of the Baize' have resisted the inevitable temptations? We will never know. Not surprisingly, the infamous 'Plan B' episode is referred to. (Paul was 6-2 down in the 2001 Masters final. During the interval, he and Lindsey had sex. Paul went on to win the match 10-2. The tabloids had a field day with this story!) Lindsey reflects on the irony of how Paul's 'bad boy' image was exploited in the press, with invitations following to do photo shoots in FHM and Esquire, at a time when he was settling down, trying to put his wild days behind him.
A lot of clichés are bandied about when we talk about cancer. We often hear phrases like "rollercoaster ride" and "cancer journey" and fighting a brave battle", yet clearly you have to go through it or watch a loved one go through it to appreciate the full horror of the experience. Lindsey's account spares no details, with graphic accounts of her husband's symptoms during the treatments and her despair on seeing him become a shadow of his former self. Paul's initial response to the diagnosis was to go out on benders and get angry. People he had known all his life, and Lindsey herself, found themselves on the receiving end of some nasty words. Lindsey comments in a matter of fact way, "it's human nature to kick out at the ones you love the most", but it must have been hellish. I found Lindsey's account particularly powerful when she was describing the more routine aspects of living with cancer. For instance, she refers to the weirdness of having an appointment card for the oncology department and a blue ring binder about chemotherapy, reflecting that - "it's one of those words that people use almost carelessly, they'll talk about a friend or a work colleague or a family member having chemo and everyone just nods and thinks they know what it's all about." Sometimes she is almost casual about things that happened, such as Paul's eyelashes falling out and her having to remove specks of dust from his eyes - "of all the things we take for granted, you never think about eyelashes particularly - until you don't have them."
To be honest, a lot of the detail terrified me. Some descriptions of Paul's pain and suffering were so bad that I actually found myself unable to keep reading. It was just too upsetting. At times the despair was unbearable to contemplate, but at other times I was inspired by the way the couple supported each other and still managed to experience happy moments amidst all the bleakness and fear. Not least, I was very moved by the irony of the fact that the couple tried for a baby for months when Paul was healthy, only for Lindsey to conceive within a few days of his cancer diagnosis. "This could be our lucky charm, the ray of light that would make the darkness bearable," Lindsey writes in her diary. "This baby had chosen the most unlikely of times to make its entrance into our world, but that had to be for a reason." Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.
Reading this book certainly makes you realise that you must not take anything and anyone for granted. After her wedding day Lindsey writes in her diary - "I've never felt this happy in my life. Paul and I are so in love, so happy with no worries." How tragically soon their life was to be turned upside down. When Paul develops a nagging pain in his side, Lindsey's diary reads - "hope he doesn't need his appendix out", a cruel example, if ever there was one, of being careful what you wish for. There are many moving references to Paul's close-knit family. Lindsey describes how heartbroken his mother, Kristina, was when Paul turned professional and had to spend long periods away from home playing in tournaments. She thought she was losing her little boy. The tragedy was that one day, much too prematurely, she would do.
There isn't a lot of snooker detail in this book, which suited me fine as I don't really follow the sport and wasn't particularly interested in reading about the finer details of Paul's matches or his style of play. This is really about Paul the husband and father, rather than Paul the snooker player. However, there are some lively anecdotes about other players, in particularly Jimmy White who seems to have had a very close bond with Paul. Lindsey does speak of Paul's determination to continue to compete during the 2005/06 season after his diagnosis, even though he would turn up at the table with no feeling in his fingertips, in pain and with thermal socks on to keep his feet warm. There were standing ovations and messages of support, but Paul lost all but one of his matches in that season. The world snooker governing body does not come across as particularly supportive towards a cancer patient, however.
Despite the heart-breaking tone of this book - the tears were rolling down my face when I read of Paul's funeral -- I could not help but be impressed by Lindsey Hunter's stoicism. This is particularly striking in her account of her daughter's first birthday after Paul's death. I really respected the way Lindsey focussed on her little girl's day, rather than letting the event turn into another wake for Paul. "You can't keep someone hanging on in agony and despair just because you want them to be there for a certain date on the calendar." Lindsey's decision to sell the house, because she didn't want her daughter to grow up surrounded by sad memories, also struck me as a sensible, forward-thinking approach. Some of her strategies for coping with bereavement were insightful and reminded me of my own coping mechanisms after the death of my father.
I can't recommend this for anyone looking for a cheery read, but it's certainly a powerful read, something that reminds you that there is a lot of truth in the old sayings about stars that shine so brightly for only a short time and how it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Lindsey's message to Paul spells it out - "even if I knew we had to go through it all again, I'd still pick you, babes. I'd still pick you." If that isn't a definition of love, I don't know what is. There are lots of lovely photographs too of Lindsey and Paul looking so beautiful together. They really were a golden couple.
Unbreakable is available used from Amazon for £0.01. The Kindle copy is £5.49.
I should like to add that the Paul Hunter Foundation was set up in 2006 to provide opportunities for disadvantaged, able bodied and disabled young people to play snooker. More information about this charity can be found at www.paulhunterfoundation.org
Summary: A gritty real-life love story
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