31/12/2008

Another Alice (by Alice Peterson)

I've read and very much enjoyed both the novels written by Alice Peterson, so was delighted to be offered this book to review for 'The Bookbag' site. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, once I realised it was basically an autobiography, and thought it might take me a week or two to read it. I do quite like autobiographical accounts, but often find them over-detailed and self-indulgent, or else confusing, as if the reader is expected to know a great deal about the person's life already.

I didn't find that 'Another Alice' fit into either of those categories. I started reading it last night, and found it so interesting that I put aside various other activities and finished it this morning. It's one of the most interesting and well-written autobiographies I have ever read.

Alice is eleven when the story begins, the youngest of four children. Her parents are loving and supportive, so when Alice develops a talent for tennis, they make some sacrifices to fund her lessons and kit, and spend a considerable amount of time driving her to and from tournaments. Alice is a very determined young lady, apparently destined for stardom.

We follow Alice through six years where tennis becomes increasingly important to her. By the time she's eighteen, she's considered one of the top eight young players in the UK.

Then disaster strikes. I already knew it would - the first chapter describes Alice at the age of 24, hoping that she can have a trial of a new drug, since she has suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for the past six years.

The latter two-thirds of the book chart the many vain attempts made to discover a drug - or combination of drugs - that can help her. It also charts her descent from hope into despair, and then the gradual, slow acceptance of herself with this horrible disease.

The book is very well written. Alice comes across as a likeable, human and remarkably courageous person, due in part to her very supportive family. There's plenty of conversation and just the right amount of description; by the time I'd finished, I felt as if I knew Alice and her family well.

I also learned a great deal about rheumatoid arthritis and got quite an insight into the suffering of a young person - not just the physical pain, but the emotional and social problems that go alongside such an illness. It wasn't written with self-pity or any sense of trying to educate the reader, but was a very enjoyable and thought-provoking book.

Highly recommended. 'Another Alice' was previously published under the title 'A Will to Win'.

My longer review of 'Another Alice' is here on The Bookbag site.

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