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Chronicle of a year in the ME zone

12 June 2012

This sufferer’s book is a good read, says Sarah Meyrick

Funnily Enough
Sophie Neville

Ashton House Publishing £7.99*

WHEN Sophie Neville was in her early 30s, she was struck down by a mystery virus that caused her to collapse, rather dramatically, at work. At the time, she was employed by the BBC, and was living life in the fast lane.

Signed off by her doctor, she took herself back to the family home in the Cotswolds for a couple of weeks to recover — never imagining that this was just the start. Before very long, she was diagnosed with ME — still something of a novelty in the 1990s — which put her totally out of action and unable to work for a whole year.

Surprisingly, as anyone who has suffered ME will tell you, she managed to keep a diary during her enforced year out, in which she chronicled the progress of the illness: her struggle for diagnosis, her quest for medical treatment, conventional and alternative, and her occasional highs and plummeting lows. She also recorded the spiritual journey she made as she tried to make sense of the experience and a life lived under previously unimagined restrictions. The notes that she took at the time were revised and expanded after her recovery.

If this makes Funnily Enough sound worthy or self-absorbed, that would be a great shame. Nor is the book a collection of after-dinner witticisms, as I feared it might be. In fact, if I have a quibble at all, it is with the title, which hardly does the book justice. Hard to pigeonhole, this is a delightful personal account of a testing time, written with a light touch and an entertaining eye for detail. Her acutely observed descriptions of life in the bosom of her somewhat eccentric family reminded me a little of the letters of the six Mitford sisters, who grew up not far away, albeit in a different era.

Funnily Enough reached number two on Kindle’s free downloads chart in April this year. It’s not hard to see why.

*This title is available from Lulu.com.

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