Summary and book reviews of Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey

Girl in the Dark

A Memoir

by Anna Lyndsey

Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey X
Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey
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    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Mar 2015, 272 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2016, 272 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Sinéad Fitzgibbon
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About this Book

Book Summary

Haunting, lyrical, unforgettable, Girl in the Dark is a brave new memoir of a life without light.

"Something is afoot within me that I do not understand, the breaking of a contract that I thought could not be broken, a slow perverting of my substance."

Anna was living a normal life. She was ambitious and worked hard; she had just bought an apartment; she was falling in love. But then she started to develop worrying symptoms: her face felt like it was burning whenever she was in front of the computer. Soon this progressed to an intolerance of fluorescent light, then of sunlight itself. The reaction soon spread to her entire body. Now, when her symptoms are at their worst, she must spend months on end in a blacked-out room, losing herself in audio books and elaborate word games in an attempt to ward off despair. During periods of relative remission she can venture cautiously out at dawn and dusk, into a world that, from the perspective of her normally cloistered existence, is filled with remarkable beauty.

And throughout there is her relationship with Pete. In many ways he is Anna's savior, offering her shelter from the light in his home. But she cannot enjoy a normal life with him, cannot go out in the day, and even making love is uniquely awkward. Anna asks herself "By continuing to occupy this lovely man while giving him neither children nor a public companion nor a welcoming home - do I do wrong?" With gorgeous, lyrical prose, Anna brings us into the dark with her, a place from which we emerge to see love, and the world, anew.

Light Gets In

It is extraordinarily difficult to black out a room.

First I line the curtains with blackout material, a heavy, plasticky fabric, strange flesh-like magnolia in colour, not actually black. But the light slips in easily, up and over the gap between the rail and the wall, and at the bottom through the loops made by the hanging folds.

So I add a blackout roller blind, inside the window alcove. But the light creeps in around the sides, and shimmies through the slit at the top.

So I tackle the panes themselves. I cut sheets of cooking foil, press them against the glass, tape them to the window frames. But the foil wrinkles and rips, refuses to lie flat. Gaps persist around the edges, pinpricks and tears across the middle. I tape and tape, tape over tape, foil over foil, layer upon layer. Instead of neat sheets of foil tethered by single strips of tape, the thing is becoming wild installation art. But I can't stop. The light is laughing at me; it is playing deliberate games, ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

By avoiding a chronological account and choosing instead to recount her tale in short, episodic chapters which focus on many of the incidents and people she has encountered on her journey, Lyndsey succeeds in portraying a life that is not completely defined by the terrible totality of her illness. While some of these anecdotes are inevitably heartbreakingly sad, others are unexpectedly funny.   (Reviewed by Sinéad Fitzgibbon).

Full Review (910 words).

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Media Reviews

Minneapolis Star Tribune
What stays with the reader is [Lyndsey's] gutsiness, her imagination and fortitude. She doesn’t give up, but keeps looking for ways to stay sharp.

The New York Times Book Review
Melodic, penetrating . . . Anna Lyndsey is both close observer and philosopher, capable of describing her world and also of pondering what it signifies.

The Daily Mail (UK)
An extraordinary memoir … Girl In The Dark is beautifully written. The author’s intelligence shines on every page, and her will to survive (despite those black thoughts in her dark room) is inspiring.

The Guardian (UK)
[Girl in the Dark] sparkles with dark humour and wonder at the world … beautifully affecting … A tribute to the power of humanity, generosity and endurance, Girl in the Dark is incredibly powerful stuff.

Publishers Weekly
Deeply affecting ... Lyndsey achieves a powerful assertion of self against the eclipse of all that she used to hold dear in the realm of light.

Kirkus Reviews
As much as the book is about coping with a life-altering condition, it is also a quiet love story that celebrates a relationship that not only withstood the ups and downs of Lyndsey's medical struggles, but also deepened in the process. A unique and haunting story.

Author Blurb Sonali Deraniyagala, author of Wave, winner of the PEN/Ackerly Prize and finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award
Anna writes with such honesty and grace and mischief about how her condition forces her to retreat into blackness - yet we see that this new space she so bravely creates for herself is suffused with light.

Author Blurb Susannah Cahalan, author of the New York Times-bestselling Brain on Fire
This book is a gift, a testament to the power of art as a saving grace.

Reader Reviews

CarolK

A life of Darkness
It is hard to imagine the true implications of living a life in the dark. Anna Lyndsey (pen name) allows us glimpse of her black box life in this beautifully poetic memoir. If it is often emotionally devastating for the reader, envision that we get ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Photosensitive Seborrhoeic Dermatitis

In Girl in the Dark, we hear a lot about how Photosensitive Seborrhoeic Dermatitis has impacted Anna Lyndsey's life but not so much about the condition itself.

Basic Seborrhoeic Dermatitis is, according to the Mayo Clinic, a common skin condition. Similar to eczema, it is characterized by red, inflamed skin, usually on the scalp, face, chest and back. Unsightly scaly patches are not unusual, and persistent dandruff is also a problem. While these symptoms, which range from unpleasant to painful, mean that flare-ups can be difficult to cope with, the disorder itself is not usually debilitating. Seborrhoeic Dermatitis does not usually adversely affect a person's ability to lead a relatively normal, fulfilled life. Anna Lyndsey&...

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