Sunday, May 17, 2009

Verity Red’s Diary – A Story of Surviving M.E.: Maria Mann

I only really got into this when she was given three kittens, Paddy, Murphy, and Mary, and began describing their antics. Having ME is rather boring – nothing happens, and improvement is so gradual as to be almost unnoticeable. Every person with ME has a different collection of symptoms to differing degrees, so I found it difficult to identify with Mann, whose condition is much worse than mine. She also suffered from the ignorance and prejudice of the medical world and family members, all of whom appeared to be quite sceptical and unsympathetic about her illness. This can be one of the most difficult aspects of ME, and quite why people suffering from this condition should be subject to such prejudice is difficult to understand. Anyone doubting the existence of this prejudice (coming from doctors and lay-persons alike) only needs to read relevant entries on the now infamous blog of the so-called “Dr Crippen”, a practising NHS doctor in the UK, and comments that readers have added on the topic.

Aside from all this, Mann has a whimsical and creative style which includes her quirky and funny poems, imaginary parties with pixies and dwarves, and odd-ball names for friends and local drinking establishments where her boyfriend disappears to on Friday nights. She has managed to find the humour in ME, in spite of it all, and this is what makes her story an enjoyable read. Her life, constrained by moderately severe ME, is described in every detail, sometimes minute by minute, as she struggles to wash a plate or get dressed. Her weekly visits to the osteopath and exchange of letters with friends provide an external view of her ordeal. If you have ME or know someone who has it, and enjoy this style of writing, then this would be an interesting book. If you’re looking for a traditional novel with gripping action and in-depth characters, then I’d look elsewhere.

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