Take Up Thy Bed and Walk: Death Disability and Cure in Classic Fictions for Girls

By Lois Keith.

The Women’s Press


ISBN 0 7043 4651 6

It is not often that I would count book reviewing as a
particularly desirable leisure time activity, let alone an
enjoyable or engrossing one. But Take Up Thy Bed and Walk is that
rare creature – an illuminating, educational, even
consciousness-raising read that this reviewer really did not want
to put down. Perhaps age has something to do with it.

Classic literature such as Jane Eyre, What Katie Did, Little
Women, and The Secret Garden invoke all kinds of memories of happy
childhood reading for me so Take Up Thy Bed and Walk was a case of
revisiting old favourites. Keith reviews the plots as she goes
along so readers not familiar with the originals are well catered

They then realise with a shock the stark nature of their
not-so-hidden messages about how girls (and boys) should behave,
and what happens to those who are sick or injured: Beth March
(Little Women) is simply too good to live, Katie, by contrast,
(apparently paralysed after falling from a swing) miraculously
recovers her ability to walk once she has metamorphosed from the
headstrong tomboy to the thoughtful young woman at “the heart of
the house”.

Although the book focuses on seven classics in detail, Keith’s
conclusion, her overview of current fiction for young people, and
analysis of the messages about disability it gives readers,
provokes some searching reflection on how disabled people are
perceived generally in our society.

Prompted by Keith’s own experience of revisiting these childhood
favourites as a disabled mother of two children, this book is a
real treat to read and ponder. My only reservation is the title,
which I fear might put off some would-be readers from a captivating
– and illuminating – read.

Linda Ward is professor of disability and social policy,
University of Bristol, where she is director, Norah Fry Research

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