Brunch recommends Anna Lyndsey's memoir of a woman allergic to light

  • Saudamini Jain, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Sep 13, 2015 21:52 IST
A memoir about living in darkness, literally – accounts of a woman who is allergic to light.

Girl in the Dark by Anna Lyndsey
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Price: Rs 379. Pages: 256

Plunging headlong into a book you know nothing about can be immensely satisfying. So when this book with a smooth black cover landed up on my desk, I figured it was a novel: horror, a psychological thriller?

It begins with a woman taping up a curtained window. It is extraordinarily difficult to black out a room – she uses blackout material, cooking foil for the edges and layers of tape. The girl in the dark lives in this blacked out room in an unlit house.

A few pages later comes the diagnosis: photosensitive seborrheic dermatitis, a sensitivity to light so severe that she must spend all her time in the shadows. No light can spill in – not a flicker, not a wink. If it does, her skin begins to burn like someone is “holding a flame-thrower to my head”. Halfway through, the chilling realisation dawns upon me: this is a memoir.

In her life before, Anna Lyndsey (a pseudonym) worked as a civil servant in London. In her early thirties, she developed her condition. This book is like notes from her journal of nine years spent in darkness. As the allergy got worse, “I learnt that walls were what I had to wear, that there was no alternative to walls, that walls, from this point on, would be my perpetual outer garment, my solitary fashion statement, my signature look.”

This is not the kind of book people generally set out to buy. But you should, because it’s a story of hope (she eventually gets better), valuable insight into a very rare medical condition and even love (her relationship with her boyfriend of more than a decade is the sweetest thing there can be). It’s a book you could really use.

From HT Brunch, September 13
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