Prof. George Hewitt

‘Patience’ by Victoria Scott is a quite remarkable first novel

Victoria Scott Patience

It concerns a family of 4: mother Louise, father Pete, older daughter Eliza, and younger daughter Patience, who is 30 years old and a severely incapacitated sufferer from Rett Syndrome – no-one should be put off reading the book because of ignorance about this debilitating condition caused by a faulty gene. We see the family's trials & tribulations as they interact mostly, but not exclusively, with one another over the course of 14 months. Patience's internalised feelings, observations and comments (necessarily imagined, given her inability to communicate anything about what MIGHT be going on in her head) are the only ones presented in the 1st person, whilst everything else is externally described. How does the family react after 3 decades of a gruelling caring-regime that demands limitless patience as they cater for Patience’s every need (the book's title has a double meaning) when they are offered the chance to include Patience in a trial for a new treatment that might offer some amelioration of, or even a cure for, her condition (albeit with the usual caveats of, hopefully unlikely, negative/alarming outcomes)? Each chapter concentrates on one (sometimes two) of the family-members as the story unfolds at a nicely balanced pace and in a way that keeps the reader turning the pages, eager to discover the outcomes for each of the characters and their various dramas. On occasions the author cunningly teases her readers, who then find their expectations nicely frustrated. She is also master (?mistress) of some choice similes, as on p. 130: 'Now it just seemed as though she'd taken the mesh off the top of a very deep wishing well and simply chucked all of her cash into it'.

Though by no means autobiographical, Victoria Scott is well cognisant of what she writes, for, as explained in the Author's Note on p. 419, she is a real-life counterpart to Eliza, having Clare as her younger sister, one of the first children to have been diagnosed with Rett Syndrome in the UK.

Given the subject-matter, it will hardly surprise that many tears are shed by the sensitively and convincingly drawn dramatis personae, though it is by no means all doom & gloom. Whether the tears remain purely fictional on the page will depend on the reactions of individual readers, of which the book deserves to have many.


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