What to Look for in Winter
A Memoir in Blindness
By Candia McWilliam
(Harper, Hardcover, 9780062094506, 464pp.)
Publication Date: March 2012
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"The most startling, discomforting, complicated, ungovernable, hilarious, and heartrending of memoirs" (The Telegraph, london)—the story of a celebrated writer's sudden descent into blindness, and the redemptive journey into the past that her loss of sight sets in motion
In 2006 the acclaimed novelist Candia McWilliam began losing her sight, a gradual onset of blindness that seemed like an assault cruelly tailored for someone whose life consisted of reading and writing. Propelled to look inward and into the past, McWilliam embarked on a painful personal voyage through a waste of snows punctuated by shards of ice as she attempted to write her life back. What followed was a flow of memory: her childhood in Edinburgh, her devastating alcoholism, finding and losing her bearings in Cambridge and London, her marriages, her children, and, overshadowing it all, her mother's suicide.
A personal story of love and loss, addiction and reclamation, her piercing memoir is also a celebration of friendship, reading, children, and the consolations of landscape. In What to Look for in Winter, McWilliam riffles through her many incarnations to find her true self and discover how she may come to see once more.
Candia McWilliam was born in Edinburgh. She is the author of A Case of Knives (1988), which won a Betty Trask Prize; A Little Stranger (1989); Debatable Land (1994), which was awarded the Guardian Fiction Prize and the Premio Grinzane Cavour in its Italian translation for the best foreign novel of the year; and a collection of stories, Wait Till I Tell You (1997). In 2006 she began to suffer from the effects of blepharospasm and became functionally blind as a result. In 2009 she underwent an operation to partially reverse the condition. What to Look for in Winter won the South Bank Sky Arts Award for literature, the Spear's Book Award for memoir, the Hawthornden Prize, and was shortlisted for the Mind Book of the Year Award and the Duff Cooper Prize.
“A dramatic memoir, which showcases [McWilliam’s] elegant voice.”
-O, the Oprah Magazine
“An astonishingly honest memoir about blindness, failed marriages and alcoholism as well as the joys of motherhood and the natural world. All delivered in a beautiful, athletic style one can only envy.”
“Not just a remarkable memoir...but also a blissful celebration of the poetry of her prose....Anyone who enjoys a play of words and appreciates the turn of a phrase in a beautifully constructed sentence will value this book for years to come.”
-Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“The most startling, discomforting, complicated, ungovernable, hilarious and heart-rending of memoirs.”
-Sunday Telegraph (London)
“What a precise, poetic dissection of a life this is; how brave she was, and how wise, to undertake it.”
-The Telegraph (London)
“Brilliant . . . breathtakingly raw in its self-excoriation. . . . Unforgettable.”
-Sunday Times (London)
“One of the most extraordinary literary autobiographies of this or any other year.”
-The Times (London)
“Beautiful, harrowing and in every way remarkable.”
“Candia McWilliam’s much-praised memoir What to Look for in Winter is my favourite book of the year, startlingly honest, wry, sad and wise.”
-Dave Nicholls, The Guardian (London)
“[An] astonishing memoir - sprawling, riveting, out-of-control, heartbreaking, hilarious and at times so vivd and captivating that, yes, you might wish you had stood in McWilliam’s shoes.”
-Susan Ager, Minneapolis Star Tribune
“[A] shimmering memoir….The unblinking contemplation of a life whose woozy chutes-and-ladders path led, literally and otherwise, into darkness….Eloquently recalled….McWilliam gathers the ineffable spaces of her past and knots them into something practical, expansive, and enduring.”
-Jan Stuart, Boston Globe
“Sparkles with vivid descriptions….An astonishingly beautiful portrait of what the world looks like when you can no longer see it.”