Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey

Girl in the Dark by Anna LyndseyGirl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group on March 3, 2015
Genres: Biography & Memoir, Medical, Personal Memoirs, Women
Pages: 272
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for review consideration.
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration.
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A gorgeous memoir of an unthinkable life: a young woman writes of the sensitivity to light that has forced her to live in darkness, and of the love that has saved her.

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.

There’s been a lot of commentary about Anna Lyndsey’s prose in Girl in the Dark: “melodic, penetrating” (New York Times); “disorienting and dreamy” (NPR); “brilliantly astute” (author Christa Parravani). I echo a resounding “yes!” to these descriptions. The beauty of Lyndsey’s style completely swept me away. Take, for instance, Lyndsey’s explanation of how she feels when she tries to listen to music in the dark:

“… somehow, music listened to in solitary darkness becomes devastating in its power. Undiluted by other stimuli, it overwhelms the emotional centres of my brain so quickly, so completely, that only a few bars are necessary to dissolve my careful stoicism into wild tears. … Music unhinges me, reduces to howling chaos my prudent tidying of emotion, my management of agony.”

Or the reason she initially resisted changing the ways she’s always done things:

“Hope held me back. Each small accommodation of my physical environment is an admission that things are not improving, that this is not some fleeting horror, that perhaps … But that is the unthinkable thought.”

Brief asides are inserted throughout the memoir: conversations she overhears; the ABC’s of the many remedies she’s tried, which read like infomercials; games to play in the dark. By breaking up the narrative with different formats and doses of dark humor, Lyndsey gives her readers powerful insight into the emotional toll of her circumstances.

Incredibly compelling read with a literary feel.