Thursday 5 July 2018


Title: My Mad Dad
Byline: The Diary of an Unravelling Mind
Author: Robyn Hollingworth
Genre: Non-fiction, Biographies & Memoirs
Publisher: Trapeze, Orion Publishing
Release Date: 19th April 2018

BLURB from Goodreads
Inadvertent cross-dressing
Attempted murder
Jail break
A waltz at a funeral
A hernia the size of Guernsey

Heartbreaking and darkly comic, these are the moments that litter the messy road from cared-for to carer, a journey that Robyn Hollingworth finds herself on when she's only twenty-five years old.

Leaving London to return home to rural South Wales, Robyn finds that it's her old life - same teddy bears resting on her pillow, their bodies tucked under the duvet; same view of the garages behind which she'd had her first cigarette and first kiss - but so much has changed.

Her dad, the proud, charmingly intelligent, self-made man who made people laugh, is in the grip of early onset Alzheimer's. His brilliant mind, which saw him building power stations and literally bringing light into the lives of others, has succumbed to darkness.

As Robyn settles back in the rhythms of life in the rain-soaked vast Welsh valleys, she keeps a diary charting her journey as the dad she knew disappears before her eyes. Lyrical, poignant and with flashes of brilliant humour, My Mad Dad explores how in helping others we can heal ourselves. 

'At some point the cared for become the carers...this isn't a shame and it isn't a tragedy and it isn't a chore. It is an honour. To be able to return the gift of love that someone bestows upon you is a gift in itself. This is a story of caring...'


The topic of this book is one very close to my own heart and is one I have shed many tears over. Dementia is an awful disease that literally takes away your loved one and leaves you with an empty shell that looks like your loved one and sounds like your loved one but yet at the same time changes them beyond recognition. 

The cover is basically like a page in a diary/notebook and it fits the book quite well. It also shows a figure in a purple coat/jacket which will make much more sense to you and will probably have you giggling when you come to a scene described in the book! I also love the ball of wool unraveling to go with the byline/sub-title of "The Diary Of An Unravelling Mind!"

The genre's listed for this book are Biographies, and Memoir which I totally agree with. After reading this book I would also add the genre "self help" I'll explain later in my review.

So this book is about the Coles' a family of four, mum, Marjorie a proud Scottish woman, her husband David who has dementia, and they live in rural Wales. David and Marjorie's now grown up son Gareth, and grown up daughter Robyn have 
long since left home with both of them having good careers and full social lives too. The book obviously reveals more about Robyn as she is the writer of it, but also features her brother Gareth. Though I would be interested to learn what her brother thinks of the book and how much, if any, input or restrictions he made/requested within the book.

At the very beginning of the book Robyn was successfully working as a fashion buyer/merchandise in London with some famous names and luxury brands. She was living in a flat in London and some would probably say living "the" life. Going out with friends at the weekend on a Friday evening and not sober up until at work on the Monday. 

When Robyn and Gareth's father David's Alzheimer's becomes more apparent and is at a point their mother cannot cope alone, she has to tell her children. Robyn is also at a turning point in her life, having just had a relationship break up. Robyn leaves her flat, packs up her few belongings and heads "home" to rural South Wales. That is a big enough change in her lifestyle going from the hustling bustling London with lots of friends and social engagements to the much quieter, less busy, no job so less money and the shock you go through when you finally have to accept a loved one has a form of dementia. The available support which Robyn and her family access depends upon what is available in their area. With them living in a smaller community they do have some support from their community. 

The book is written and  presented in the style of a diary. It is from the personal diary that Robyn kept throughout the time she cared for her father David. . . I do love the conversational style of this book. there are no "airs and graces". Robyn tells it like it really is. This isn't someone preaching about how you should and shouldn't do things, Robyn is living the life with a loved one with dementia. Robyn comes across as someone who would be easy to talk to and have a laugh with. Sure some of the humour could possibly be called "gallows humour" but if you are caring for someone with dementia you will most likely understand it.

My immediate thoughts upon finishing the book were that it has been
an emotionally difficult read for me, but have had tears of sadness, tears of laughter. This book has given me the feeling that I am not alone. It kind of gives you permission to be angry at dementia and suggests how to avoid correcting your loved one. The book also shows that it's alright to smile and nod and let your loved one stay in their fantasy world if that's where they are happiest.

This book has helped me feel not so alone with this medical condition. I don't want to rattle along about my connections with Alzheimer's but I found this book made me smile. In fact it may seem a funny thing to say but it gave me permission to laugh at somethings those with dementia do and say as well as kind of grieve for what you have already lost, by your loved one being changed due to dementia.

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