THIS is a true story like no other I have ever read. The rare condition which has plagued Anna Lyndsey for most of her life was not even known to me. After living a normal life, working, playing sport, doing ordinary things at all times of the day, she was diagnosed with a severe case of photo sensitivity , “an allergy to light in all its forms.” This is hard to imagine. Anna must spend endless days and months in a completely dark room, sealed off from the slightest intrusion of light. Her skin burns, and the terrible heat lasts for days. If she does venture out at night, she is shrouded in long sleeves, long trousers, socks, scarves and hat, lest there be some artificial light which brings its appalling reaction. “I have become a devotee, a voluptuary of sleep, a connoisseur of its intense, uncharted pleasures. Sleep slips the chains of this life. snaps the intimate fetters of my skin , sets me free to travel the wild landscapes of the ungoverned mind.” But this tortured soul cannot spend 24 hours asleep, so she invents all manner of mind games to keep herself sane. She does not tell her story sequentially, but writes, beautifully, in episodes which illustrate what her life has become. She is aided, at all times, by her husband-to-be Pete. Without him, it is doubtful that this memoir would ever have been attempted. The second part of the book is devoted to her intermittent remissions, when the allergy loosens its grip a little, a very little, to allow some trips out of the house in her “puppy cage” in the car, to protect her from light or sun. But each time that it seems life may be becoming slightly easier, there is a downturn again. Like the legend of the stone pusher never reaching the top of the hill, so that he must start from the bottom again, Anna Lyndsey plunges back into darkest despair,over and over again. This is a harrowing memoir, but a beautiful one. It is a tribute to extraordinary courage, to abiding love and to a faith which will, one day, bring its reward, because “joy lies in every mundane thing, just waiting to be found”.
GIRL IN THE DARK by ANNA LYNDSEY
PUBLISHED by BLOOMSBURY for a recommended $29.99