Girl in the Dark: A Memoir by Anna Lyndsey: Review

Girl in the Dark: A Memoir by Anna Lyndsey: Review

Nothing gothic here. Its all about dark. The blog’s name is Darkfinds, anyway.

Whenever Anna Lyndsey, an ambitious young British civil servant, sat down at her computer, the light from the screen would cause a mildly annoying sunburn-like heat on her face. The pale woman with the reddish hair had always had sensitive skin, but never like this. Over weeks the burning reaction escalated to blowtorch intensity and agonizing pain. She had to avoid all fluorescent lighting, and then all light, as her entire body became sensitized to the tiniest shard of daylight peeking around a curtain.

Ultimately diagnosed with an extreme form of chronic photo-sensitive seborrheic dermatitis, Lyndsey had to abandon a career she loved, move out of the flat she’d been so proud to buy and ensconce herself in her boyfriend’s south-England house, confined to one room kitted out with blackout blinds, foil taped over window panes, rolled-up towels against the crack under the door. “I lie back inside my box of darkness,” she writes, “the new container for my life.”

Ten years have passed since those first symptoms. Lyndsey’s memoir, Girl in the Dark, could have been a bleak book indeed, but it’s not. Lyndsey (a pseudonym — clearly this private woman is not out for attention) has taken her dark world and infused it with a luminous clarity and a quietly self-deprecating humour.

She compares herself to a character in a gothic novel when describing the getup she has to wear. Since the faintest indoor light can punctuate fabric, she dons full-length double-layered skirts, leggings, knee-high boots and lined velvet jackets. Before becoming completely intolerant to daylight she would venture out in an oversize broad-peaked woollen cap and dark red satin face mask, alarming strangers.

With her ears now her prime connection to the world, Lyndsey, the daughter of professional musicians, is surprised she can no longer listen to music, which overwhelms her emotionally and dissolves her careful stoicism into wild tears. “The curls and twists of melody, the simplest alteration of chords, are probing fingers in my mind, pulling the lids off memories, tearing the shrouds from impossible yearnings, beaming floodlights on to departed joys,” she writes. She forgoes “the liquid pleasures of music” for the “dry pebbles of words,” devouring audiobooks with the obsession of a junkie.

[…]

The book Girl in the dark is just there. Worth a look, I think.

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