Back Cover Blurb
- 'Sheila Hale's piercing book enlarges the language of love. It tells a tale of passion, heroism and rage aroused by her struggle to enable a sensitive erudite man to live without words'
→ Brenda Maddox
- The Man Who Lost His Language is both a love story and the story of a quest for medical and scientific knowledge about a common but little-understood illness that could attack any of us, as it attacked the author's husband, John Hale, one of the world's leading historians. A month after he finished writing the book that turned out to be his masterpiece, Hale suffered a stroke which deprived him of the power to speak or to write.
- Hale's stroke was so massive that he was at first written off by doctors as a hopeless case. But his wife, Sheila, was determined to find out what had happened to her husband and how he might be brought back to as normal a life as possible.
- This beautifully, often dramatically, written book conveys with raw honesty the extremes of emotion and behaviour — rage and contentment, desperation and dignity — that affect people disabled by stroke and those who love and care for them. It gives an accessible account of what is known about stroke and what impaired speech tells us about the relationship between language and intelligence1 — and how much we all communicate without words. Sheila Hale convincingly and grippingly brings together the personal and the universal. The result is a small, unclassifiable masterpiece.
Amazon Book Description
- John Hale was one of the world's foremost Renaissance historians. Soon after delivering the second draft of the text of his masterpiece, The Civilization of Europe in the Renaissance, Hale had a stroke that deprived him of the power of speech.
- His wife Sheila set out to find out what had happened and how John might be brought back to normal as far as possible. Her book gives a moving account of what it is like when a partner suffers a stroke and a sympathetic lay person's assessment of what is known about aphasia2. But it is also an exploration of what aphasia3 can tell us about the nature of language, and how we construct our lives through it.
- For the subject of the book, see Wikipedia: John Rigby Hale.
- For the author, see HarperCollins: Sheila Hale.
- For (fairly) current accounts of aphasia4 and related physiology, see:-
→ National Aphasia Association (US)
→ NHS: Aphasia
→ Wikipedia: Aphasia
→ Wikipedia: Expressive (Broca's) Aphasia
→ Wikipedia: Receptive (Wernicke's) Aphasia
→ Wikipedia: Broca's Area
→ Wikipedia: Wernicke's Area
- I have met Sheila Hale at Oliver Black's Salons.
- We were discussing Cecilia Heyes's talk, and her (alleged) failure to focus on the brain (rather than the mind). Sheila Hale mentioned her book, and I said I thought I had a copy - which I had - but originally confused it with "Wearing (Deborah) - Forever Today - A Memoir of Love and Amnesia".
- Having now read the book, I’m very impressed. The book is multi-faceted, containing much factual material about the aphasia5 and the many and diverse approaches to its treatment; but it is mostly about John Hale and his life before and after his stroke and the struggles his wife, Sheila Hale, undertook on his behalf to find therapy from a frequently uninterested medical profession. It is easy to read and reflects the fact that it was mostly written in the last year of John’s life when there was still hope that he might recover some ability to speak. It is not until the Afterword that we are told of his death (not that this will be a surprise to those with access to Wikipedia). So, we read on with hope, as Sheila lived on therewith while writing the text.
- As well as having a general interest in psychopathology6 in relation to my primary research interest of Personal Identity7, I have a personal interest in that my father suffered a stroke at the unusually young age of 41. He had had a cardiac arrest two years earlier. His stroke left him with aphasia8 and right side paralysis. However, largely because of the intensive therapy provided by my mother, he made a full recovery. I was in my first year at grammar school when the “accident” happened – I found him lying as if asleep in the cupboard under the stairs. I forget all the details of how long it took him to recover, and precisely what his symptoms were, though I know that he initially lost all ability to speak or write – though he could read and understand speech – and for years thereafter had difficulty with the fine motor-control of his right arm when he wasn’t concentrating. He was forever rapping his knuckles on the table at meal-times when attempting to lift his right hand from his lap to use his knife. My mother had been a junior-school teacher and headmistress and “took him in hand” as though he were a naughty little boy. It was all rather distressing – she used to be very abusive and bullying towards him – in the manner then popular with school-teachers towards their more backward pupils, and my siblings never forgave her for it. She would never let him get away with the “knuckle rappings” or with speech errors. But she explained to me that it was necessary in order to force my father to make the recovery that he did. The recovery must have been fairly rapid, as he was able to drive again a couple of years later by which time he’d fully recovered his language. His relative youth was no doubt a help. He lived on for 16 years or so after his stroke, succumbing to a fatal heart-attack aged 57.
Alan Lane / Penguin, 2002
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2022
- Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)