By Sheila Cassidy.
Darton, Longman and Todd
ISBN 0 232 52120 4
Sheila Cassidy’s new book is a novel about cancer patients and
the professionals who support them.
The many characters and the complicated interwoven human dramas
are worthy of George Eliot. The plots include nervous breakdown,
attempted suicide, sexual abuse, single parents, ageing, dying,
overworked doctors, bereaved children.
Crammed into 177 pages, written in simple popular style, the
novel is embarrassingly trite. For example, Kate, a 29-year-old
single mum, abused by partners, develops cancer of the uterus. In
hospital she meets Robbie, a 22-year-old leukaemia patient. They
fall in love. He dies a few days later leaving her his flat and
She recovers her health and marries the psychiatrist who
counselled her and her teenage daughter about their sexual abuse.
They are last seen on honeymoon watching a Venice sunset.
Linked to the novel is a 35-page appendix of comments on
subjects such as how patients react to knowing they have cancer,
how children grieve, how overworked professionals may neglect their
These comments could be helpful to professionals starting work
in cancer wards and palliative care teams. In writing most of her
book as a novel it would seem that Sheila Cassidy was ill-advised
by her publishers, for when she moves from the weak novel into her
professional explanations she writes beautifully and with
tremendous sensitivity and compassion.
Maureen Oswin is a researcher and author of Am I
Allowed to Cry?