3 out of 5 stars

A copy of this was provided free of charge from the publisher in return for an honest review.

Linda Gask has had an interesting and varied life. She retired from being a consultant psychiatrist in the National Health Service and an academic at the University of Manchester a number of years ago. She is now Emerita Professor of Primary Care Psychiatry at the University of Manchester. In the past, she has advised the World Health Organisation and was awarded the President’s Medal by the Royal College of Psychiatrists in 2017.

To work at that high level you would expect someone who is driven and level headed, but she has suffered from anxiety and depression throughout her life. After she retired she decided to make her home in Orkney, her husband still had commitments down south so they would be enduring separate lives for the foreseeable future. She moves in slowly bringing items from their home in Yorkshire all the while wondering how this abode will cope with the relentless weather that sweeps in all year round. As they talk over Skype, John sees that she is relapsing into another period of mental illness.

It is a challenging time for both of them, John’s mother is admitted to a care home and he still wants to stay near her so they only have a certain amount of time together before he has to head back to Yorkshire. They have always wanted to live in Scotland, but circumstances mean that this isn’t possible at the moment and that isn’t helping with her anxiety. Slowly things begin to change though and a combination of medicines and hope help lift her from her blackest period.

This is a very personal memoir of a life spent helping others with their mental health issues whilst at the same time suffering from her own mental health issues. It did give her an insight into what the patients in her care were suffering from and almost certainly meant that she was in a better place to be able to help them recover. I had hoped for more of the place that she has chosen to live with her husband, Orkney. It is there in the book, but only as a landscape glimpsed occasionally in the narrative, but she does bring its bleak beauty alive in her prose.

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