From time to time I talk about books with blind characters here on Adventures in Low Vision. Over winter, a few finished reads stacked up. Today’s post combines my notes for three of them that you may enjoy.
Book #1: Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
Horowitz has written quite a few suspense novels, but the only one I read is Magpie Murders. It’s a layered story featuring editor Susan Ryland investigating a curious situation involving a manuscript. But, I don’t want to go into detail and spoil any of the complex plot. What I will say is some old-fashioned attitudes about blindness were evident, but it’s still a good book.
I tend to research the writer of any book I read which features a blind character. I’m looking for hints about their connection to blindness. Do they have a personal link? Did they do research on a condition that causes blindness? That sort of thing. My efforts uncovered a relevant bit of info: a Daily Mail article from 2013 disclosed that Horowitz, after being diagnosed with a medical condition, fears going blind. Aha! I continued searching and found more. It’s a great interview from RNIB Connect’s Read On episode #67 – Live at the Boswell Book Festival. Horowitz and other writers and actors are featured praising talking books. Dame Judi Dench stole the program though as she talked about her adjustments living with vision loss. It was refreshing. Her memoir, And Furthermore delves into this, too. Now where was I?
Book #2: Lethal White by Robert Galbraith AKA J. K. Rowling
Rowling certainly understands the benefits of inclusive writing. While the Harry Potter series has its merits and missteps with diversity, I see her continuing to include characters with disabilities in her adult series featuring Detective Cormoran Strike. Her charitable efforts in her personal life endear me a bit as well. In her fourth Strike bestseller, Lethal White, I was delighted to meet Della Winn, a character who uses a guide dog. First we witness her entering a taxi without issue. Part of me wanted Rowling to say, “a previous taxi sedan approached, but when the driver noticed the dog, he frowned and flipped the indicator light. He pulled away from the curb without a word.” Perhaps that would be too biting.
Della and her guide dog are not the main focus and that’s fine. Others stand out. For example, at the Chiswell estate, we meet the favorite canine of mine, Rattenbury. As much as I have a soft spot for guide dogs you know my heart lands with a terrier. Another scene with Della is a visit to her place. The focus on her actions while holding a conversation rang true to me. When people try to talk with me while I’m doing things sometimes it’s difficult. What did miss the mark was the going on and on about the framed photograph. Sure, not being able to see a loved one due to blindness is annoying, but the not being able to love them is the true issue. Overall, Rowling painted a decent portrayal.
For those who have finished Lethal White, in Jo’s books, a terrier is never just a terrier.
Book #3: The Unwinding of the Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything that Comes After by Julie Yip-Williams
“This story begins at the ending which means that if you are here, I am not.” With that honest but depressing first sentence, this could be a tough read.
Yip-WIlliams writes openly throughout her book, such as how she felt living with vision loss as a kid,“For a child there is nothing worse than being different in that negative and pitiful way. “ She tells us a lot about cancer as an adult, but the story of her grandmother advising she should be killed since she was blind hit me harder. Despite hard events, she was able to live a full life and embrace times of joy, some rather bittersweet–she admits she felt she had to prove her worth.
In hindsight, I wanted more pages about Yip-WIlliams’s life before cancer. I didn’t catch her mention any friend with vision loss, someone who would understand her struggles and drive to excel in school, someone who would relate on her social exclusion. It’s possible that she passed as sighted enough that she chose not to disclose her vision loss and therefore missed opportunities to connect with peers. I wish I would have known her years ago. Emotionally, she carried a lot within her.
Yip-Williams learned so much on her shortened journey. The wisdom she shares, like this closing quote, is deep:
“There is incredible value in pain and suffering. If you allow yourself to experience it to cry to feel sorrow and grief, to hurt. Walk through the fire and you will emerge on the other end whole and stronger.”
What do you think of these three books and writers? Other books featuring blind characters can be found here on my Goodreads shelf. Reviews can be found here that I wrote for the blog of books, TV shows, etc. What are you reading? Tell me about it.