Book Review

Take Me Home by Jonathan Taylor

So I’ve read another memoir by a British academic, but this one isn’t the “Books Conquers All” disappointment of Lorna Sage’s Bad Blood, but is instead a moving – and much more theoretical – exploration of the effects of Parkinson’s Disease, written from the perspective of a sufferer’s son.

Jonathan Taylor, like Sage an English lecturer, fills his book with allusions and quotations to varied texts and writers. Very common is Thomas de Quincey, the renowned opium addict. I couldn’t quite work out if this was a deliberate attempt to draw comparison between the loss of physical and mental strength under opium use with Parkinsonian dementia, or just an excuse to promote a writer Taylor likes. Certainly his enthusiasm has moved the unread de Quincey up (one of) my pile(s) of books to read.

Jonathan Taylor’s father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease when the writer was a teenager. He writes in great detail and with heavily researched knowledge about the general and specific effects of the illness. Medical terms and theory exist side by side with personal recollections, most frequently of his father confusing his son with a former professional rival.

The Parkinson’s disease described here is a lot like that in Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections which, when I read it, I found non-realistic, certainly far from any personal encounters I had had with the disease in real life. But Taylor makes clear that this dementia, hallucination and deep confusion does not happen in every case of Parkinson’s, but occurs in roughly twenty per cent. Taylor knows his topic, and throws in complex physiological descriptions and statistics to offer not just an account of his experience with his father’s illness, but a universal introduction to the complexes and variants of the disease.

At times very sad, regularly funny and constantly  informative whilst never boring, Take Me Home is a strong and personal text about a serious topic. Nice!

(Written on my phone on the way to an airport. Please point out any typos and I’ll correct them next week.)

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