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Girl in the Dark
Cover of Girl in the Dark
Girl in the Dark
A Memoir
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Haunting, lyrical, unforgettable, Girl in the Dark is a brave new memoir of a life without light. Anna Lyndsey was young and ambitious and worked hard; she had just bought an apartment; she was...
Haunting, lyrical, unforgettable, Girl in the Dark is a brave new memoir of a life without light. Anna Lyndsey was young and ambitious and worked hard; she had just bought an apartment; she was...
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Description-

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

    Anna Lyndsey was young and ambitious and worked hard; she had just bought an apartment; she was falling in love. Then what started as a mild intolerance to certain kinds of artificial light developed into a severe sensitivity to all light.
    Now, at the worst times, Anna is forced to spend months on end in a blacked-out room, where she loses herself in audiobooks and elaborate word games in an attempt to ward off despair. During periods of relative remission, she can venture out cautiously at dawn and dusk into a world that, from the perspective of her cloistered existence, is filled with remarkable beauty. And through it all there is Pete, her love and her rock, without whom her loneliness seems boundless.
    One day Anna had an ordinary life, and then the unthinkable happened. But even impossible lives, she learns, endure. Girl in the Dark is a tale of an unimaginable fate that becomes a transcendent love story. It brings us to an extraordinary place from which we emerge to see the light and the world anew.

Excerpts-

  • From the book

    Light Gets InIt 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, lying low to persuade me that I have made an area secure, then as soon as I move on, wriggling through some overlooked wormhole. The day beyond my window is an ocean, pressing and pulsing at my protecting walls, and I must plug a leaky dike perpetually against its power.

    At last, I think I may have done enough. I lower the blind on my crazy patchwork of foil, pull the curtains, place a rolled-up towel along the crack at the bottom of the door. I sit quietly on the bed, and wait for my eyes to adjust.

    And I have it. Finally I have it. I have blackness.

    I lie back inside my box of darkness, the new container for my life. I am overwhelmed with exhaustion and relief.

    House

    The house with the blacked-out room is not a large one. It is red brick with a tiled roof, a neat 1980s box. Downstairs there is a hall, a loo, a living room and a kitchen, upstairs three modest bedrooms and a bathroom. The garage joins it to the house next door, its mirror image, round the other way.

    From the front garden, looking up, my black room is the one on the right-hand side. The house, alone among its companions, has one closed eye, and inside that dark eyeball, a pale girl.

    When I come out of my black room, three closed doors lead from the landing; they are always kept shut. The stairs curve downwards into gloom, because there is a curtain covering the glazed front door. I have learnt not to hurtle down them. I descend carefully, holding on to the handrail, placing a foot squarely on each step.

    I go into the living room. At each end, the curtains are drawn; they are conventional curtains, so the room is not absolutely black. Armchairs and a sofa make humped shapes like resting elephants in the minimal light. The metal frames of pictures reflect odd gleams, the images themselves invisible. Around the dining table, chair backs and arms are a jumble of vertical and horizontal bars. From a corner, a standard lamp rears a sinister outsize head.

    I move into the kitchen, and immediately pick up speed. Even though closed Venetian blinds filter the light that comes through its windows, this room is much brighter than the rest of the house. I grab the kettle, shove it under the tap, slot it on to its base and bang the button down. I swing round to a cupboard, extract a mug and a plate, and sidestep to another for a teabag. I take the plate, a knife and a packet of oatcakes into the gloom next door, set them on the dining table and listen as the kettle bubbles itself to a climax. When it's clicked, I dart into the kitchen again, and with the economy and swiftness of a dancer, pour my tea, extract cheese from the fridge and, carrying both,...

About the Author-

  • Anna Lyndsey is a pen name. Lyndsey worked for several years in London as a civil servant until she became ill. She now lives in Hampshire, England.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    January 19, 2015
    In this deeply affecting work about her increasingly debilitating dermal sensitivity to light, former British civil servant turned piano teacher Lyndsey moves the reader with her wry, intimately detailed narrative. When exposure to her computer screen became unbearable pain on her face, she quit her high-level writing job at the Department of Work and Pensions in 2005 and began a gradual process of vanishing from sight. She moved to Hampshire to live with her understanding and loving boyfriend Pete, where she spent most of her time in a blacked-out room listening to books on tape, exercising, receiving fewer and fewer visitors (like her intrepid pianist mother), and doing mind-bending word games “to play in the dark.” Minimizing her agonizing exposure to light (now over her entire body) required her to venture out only after sundown, except during periods of remission, forcing her to postpone wedding plans. Trips during the day—such as to the mostly mystified doctors—required hats and mummy-like swaths covering her face and body. Working gingerly with the array of metaphors that emerge from darkness and offering small, telling details, Lyndsey achieves a powerful assertion of self against the eclipse of all that she used to hold dear in the realm of light. Her work is especially gripping because there is no cure for or reversal to her condition.

  • Kirkus

    December 15, 2014
    A former British civil servant's debut memoir about learning to live with a rare light-sensitivity disorder that forces her to spend months living in complete darkness.Though Lyndsey sometimes questioned her job at the Department of Work and Pensions in London, she loved what she did and the security her position offered. But in April 2005, she made a disturbing discovery. Whenever she sat in front of her computer screen, the skin on her face burned "like the worst kind of sunburn." At first, she suspected sensitivity to artificial and especially fluorescent lights. By June, however, Lyndsey's condition had deteriorated to the point where she could no longer tolerate light of any kind, including sunlight. Forced to abandon her job, she moved into her boyfriend (and later husband) Pete's house. There, she spent her days dressed head to toe in light-impermeable clothes in a room that blacked out all traces of sunshine. Her only companions were audiobooks and complex word games, both of which she used to keep herself from sliding further into despair. Realizing that her condition was medically untreatable and likely permanent, she began reaching out telephonically to others who she discovered had similar conditions. These friends became conduits through which she received "massive transfusions of life." Over time, she found that she would experience brief periods when "the muttering in [her] skin" ceased and she could go outside at dawn and dusk with a photographic light meter to help her measure how much light she could withstand. 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.

    COPYRIGHT(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    October 15, 2014
    A hit at the London Book Fair, the pseudonymous Lyndsey's reportedly beautifully written memoir explains what it has been like to develop such a sensitivity to light that she has had to spend months in a blacked-out room with audiobooks her only companions.

    Copyright 2014 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Boston Globe "Absolutely stunning ... A gorgeous writer of rare honesty and wit."
  • The New York Times Book Review "Melodic, penetrating ... [Girl in the Dark] reveals the quiet, ingenious consciousness of a poet. Anna Lyndsey is both close observer and philosopher, capable of describing her world and also of pondering what it signifies."
  • 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 Guardian "[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."
  • Daily Mail "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."
  • Publishers Weekly "Deeply affecting ... Working gingerly with the array of metaphors that emerge from darkness and offering small, telling details, Lyndsey achieves a powerful assertion of self against the eclipse of all that she used to hold dear in the realm of light."
  • Susannah Cahalan, author of the New York Times-bestselling Brain on Fire "The premise of Girl in the Dark seems lifted out of a Gothic novel: a woman whose flesh is burned by light is confined to a dark box of a room. But this story is so much more than a medical mystery or a nightmarishly true tale. I read this book, a memoir that reads like an epic poem, pen in hand, feverishly underlining sentence after sentence. Yes, life is suffering, but in the end, as Anna Lyndsey so aptly puts it, 'Words are wonderful.' This book is a gift, a testament to the power of art as a saving grace."
  • Sonali Deraniyagala, author of Wave, winner of the PEN/Ackerly Prize and finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award "In this astonishing memoir Anna Lyndsey takes us into the world of a rare and shocking illness, and we emerge awed by a shining love story. 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."
  • Christa Parravani, author of Her "It takes courage to heal, to step outside and want to feel the full magnificence of the sun. Taking that journey with a writer of such rare gifts as Anna Lyndsey is pure pleasure."

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    Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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