Andrea Gillies is a writer and journalist. Keeper won the 2009 Wellcome Trust Book Prize, the United Kingdom's pre-eminent popular science writing award, and the 2010 Orwell Prize. She lives with her family in St. Andrews, Scotland, and has just completed her first novel.
This biography was last updated on 08/05/2010.
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A Letter from Andrea Gillies, author of Keeper
When I was a carer of someone with Alzheimer's disease, my mother-in-law Nancy, I thought the fact that I'm a natural consumer of printed word, a gobbler of books and print information, would help me with my new role. I went out looking for guidance. Perhaps it was bad luck, but the books that I found in my local bookshop were of the kind that reassure a carer that all will be well with the right approach: that, in effect, the happiness or otherwise of the person with dementia is down to the right kind of handling.
I've learned that this is nonsense. Dementias are unlike any other kind of disease in being diseases of Selfhood. The physical progress of Alzheimer's through the brain, robbing a person first of memory and then of the autobiographical basis of identity, is to blame for the unhappiness that Alzheimer's brings. It's often thought that memory is a vault, an archive that we can visit, but the truth is that it's a process, an orchestral process fuelled by millions of co-operative neurons working together. 'Self,' the experience of self, self-knowledge, is likewise a process and not something fixed. It is constantly being made and remade...
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