Category Archives: Reading


The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion, is a delightful romp with the endearingly quirky fictional professor of genetics, Don Tillman. At the age of 39 and never having been on a second date, Don sets out with a 16-page questionnaire to find the perfect wife. Perfect for him, that is. He is blissfully unaware that his criteria eliminate just about every woman he’s ever likely to meet.

Although it is never stated that Don has Asperger’s, he quite clearly has.  He may have little insight into the thoughts and feelings of others, let alone the minefield of social interaction, but he is acutely aware that his brain is wired differently.

The lack of a label works brilliantly by keeping the focus on Don who comes across as a real character, not a list of odd behaviours. For me, The Rosie Project isn’t about someone with Asperger’s; rather, it is about acceptance and is the story of someone who doesn’t quite fit in and his search for a relationship.

I had the pleasure of hearing Graeme Simision talk about The Rosie Project in Wellington last month.  He said that he didn’t research Asperger’s and didn’t set out to invent an ‘Asperger’s’ character. This got me thinking about dementia and how people with dementia are portrayed in fiction and it seemed to me that concentrating on the character, rather than the condition, as Simsion did with Asperger’s, is the way to go.

Graeme Simsion is such an engaging speaker and his reading from the book was so entertaining that I immediately rushed off to buy the book. To my surprise, The Rosie Project has a minor character with Alzheimer’s. Daphne is an elderly neighbour of Don’s and her life revolves around visiting her husband who is in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s. Don befriends Daphne and tells her a great deal about genetics as he accompanies her when she visits her husband in his nursing home. After her husband dies, Daphne develops Alzheimer’s and Don visits her regularly when she in turn goes into the nursing home. He continues his visits long after she no longer recognises him. He may be awkward and perplexed by the nuances of social interaction, but he accepts Daphne and is a friend to her when no one else is.

The Daphne story is incidental to the book and I’ve never seen a reviewer comment on it, but I think it’s a lovely complement to Don Tillman’s story.

Wow! People are reading my book

It’s great news that people are reading my book. How do I know this? Partly because I keep a close watch on which libraries hold the book. I also look at whether any copies are on issue, and have been delighted to see that lots are on issue throughout the country. So, word must be getting out there.

I see the book on the shelves when I go into a bookshop, but what I don’t know is how many people are actually buying it.

Another way I know that my book is being read is from feedback from people who have bought it.

I’ve discovered that someone will buy the book and then hand it on to another person, or sometimes two or three other people. Great! One of the reasons I opted for a print book, rather than an ebook, was that I thought readers might well want to lend their book to other people or pass it on. So, it seems I was right on that score.

When I wrote the book I had a lot of things I wanted to say about dementia and it was very, very important to me to get the book into readers’ hands. But there is a little sting in the tail—I have discovered that readership does not equal sales.

Although sales are ticking along nicely, it’s just as well I don’t define success purely in terms of sales.

The first review of ‘What Are you Doing Here?’

How exciting! A five-star review of What Are You Doing Here? Reflections on Dementia on Goodreads.

I wanted to add a widget to this blog showing Goodreads reviews, but I can’t seem to do it on a WordPress blog.

Instead, I’ll quote the final paragraph of the review here:

‘I can’t help but feel the world would be a better place if ‘What Are You Doing Here?’ was recommended reading for anybody either working with dementia sufferers or responsible for making policies that affect their lives.’

Of course, I agree! There is a lot in the book about my mother’s experiences in residential care and in hospital—some of it good, some of it not. I discovered how easily people with dementia can fall through the cracks. They get overlooked, and sometimes ignored. Assumptions are made, reactions to confusion and stress are labelled as challenging behaviour and no one has the time to listen and reassure. There are some amazing people who work in dementia care and treat the people they care for as people, but we need more of them. And we need policymakers who realise there are people behind the statistics.

Why I’m getting another Kindle after all

In my last post, I complained about my Kindle breaking down and said I didn’t think it was worth replacing and that from now on I was going back to paper books. I would have been quite happy to do so, but my technical advisor (husband) doesn’t like to be beaten by any piece of electronic equipment. He spent half an hour on Skype talking to a very polite, very efficient customer service person at Amazon, who concluded that my Kindle was indeed broken. She then offered several options to replace it with a reconditioned model with a full warranty at a discounted price. We decided to opt for a cheap, no frills model at a far lower price than we would pay retail for a replacement. She even offered free delivery, until she realised that New Zealand is a very long way from the United States (in fact, it’s a long way from everywhere).

My new Kindle arrived a few days later. Sadly, it doesn’t fit in the nice red cover I had for my old Kindle, but I now have access to the ebooks I bought in the past. This episode has made me think carefully about what I read in ebook format and what I read in print. I’ll keep my Kindle for lightweight reading and reading when I’m on the move.

We asked about the expected lifespan of a Kindle, and the helpful customer service person said at least four years. It didn’t seem long to me, and I suppose we were unlucky that my device didn’t even last that long. But then, I don’t expect other electronic equipment such as my laptop to last indefinitely, although I usually manage more than four years.

It made me think, though. To me, one of the advantages of print books is that you can put them on a shelf and they will still be there years later waiting to be read without the aid of any device, except perhaps, reading glasses.  It seems that with ebooks, you have to be much more active in managing the hardware needed to access your book collection.  What’s going to happen when large numbers of Kindles reach the end of their useful lives? Will people replace them or use tablets instead? Will today’s ebooks still be accessible in a decade’s time? Anyone else remember floppy disks?

Why I’m abandoning my Kindle

I don’t have anything against ebooks. I liked my Kindle, especially for reading in bed on cold nights—so much easier turning pages with just one hand poking out from under the blankets.  After a bit of experimenting, I found I would opt for an ebook if I wanted an easy read where I would start at page one and read straight through in a short time, or if I was travelling. I still preferred a print book for non-fiction or more challenging fiction. I liked to be able to go back when I suddenly realised the significance of something mentioned earlier. I also liked to flick ahead to see how many more pages to the end of the chapter so I could decide whether to turn the light out or keep reading.

Another advantage of ebooks is that they are cheaper, even if you’re like me and buy mostly $9+ range. Except they aren’t really cheaper, not when you look at the whole cost. An ebook is useless without a device to read it on. Yesterday I picked up my Kindle and was about to go on an ebook buying binge, and this is what I saw:

Dead Kindle

Nothing but vertical and horizontal white lines intersecting over the screen.  My technical advisor (aka my husband) was straight onto it and soon advised that the screen was munted (and in case anyone who’s not from New Zealand stumbles across this post, ‘munted’ means irretrievably broken, knackered, wrecked). And it’s out of warranty. Maybe it’s just bad luck that it stopped working, but I’d never really thought about the lifespan of these devices before, and by extension, ebooks.

Do I really want to spend $190 replacing a device that’s not even two years old? By the time I spread the cost of two devices across the cost of the ebooks I buy, it would be cheaper just to go down to a bookshop and pay for a print book. And that’s what I intend to do from now on. I might eventually get another device and start reading ebooks again, but I’m in no hurry.