Book group: Slow puncture by Peter Berry and Deb Bunt

We hear about an account of a year in the life of a keen cyclist diagnosed with young-onset dementia.

Slow puncture follows a friendship grown out of unique circumstances. Chapters alternate between Peter, who has young-onset dementia, and Deb, recently retired to Suffolk from a tough job in London. 

‘He is funny, up for a challenge, a showman,’ says Izabela Karasinska-Stanley, in our Publishing team. ‘She is cynical and has lost faith in humanity. They are joined by a love of cycling and embark on a series of fundraising challenges. 

‘The main event is the Four Counties Cycle Challenge, where Peter leads Deb and a crew of supporters through Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire on a penny-farthing.’

Slow puncture, by Peter Berry and Deb Bunt

Jane Buckels in Wales, who lives with dementia, says, ‘Books on dementia often dwell on the later stages, when the main character is dependent on others and has little obvious awareness of the world around them. 

‘It was refreshing to read a book which celebrated what someone with dementia can achieve and that a diagnosis is not the end.’

Clever and inspiring 

‘It is cleverly written and very easy to read – each co-author picking up the thread of the story from the other and moving it along,’ says Izabela. ‘Peter has a very visual way of describing the world, using analogies and metaphors to explain the way he feels.’ 

Joe Williams, a former carer in north Wales, says, ‘It is a truly inspirational story, which everybody should read.’ 

Peter Middleton in Northamptonshire, agrees. ‘This is a story about living with dementia, and Peter’s determination to continue to squeeze every drop of happiness out of the time remaining to him. 

‘It should be read by all of us who have a diagnosis of dementia. We see ourselves mirrored in Peter’s thoughts and experiences. We recognise and share his fears and ambitions.’ 

Clare Crowther, a carer in Cornwall, didn’t think it avoided the progressive nature of dementia either. 

‘I didn’t expect it to evoke such poignant feelings in me – it’s quite an emotional journey!’ she says. ‘I am partly left with a sense of foreboding of what is yet to come for my husband, for me and for our wider family.’ 

Anne Marie Bird, a reader in the West Midlands, says, ‘I have not been able to put this book down, and it has given me a better understanding of what people go through.’ 

Informative and emotional 

Izabela found the way that each person tells their story to be revealing. 

‘Deb is self-effacing but grows in confidence and hope,’ she says. ‘Peter becomes more afraid and loses progressively more memories – his chapters get shorter as the book goes on.’ 

Jane says, ‘The book has some very good descriptions of the condition, which those with a diagnosis of young-onset dementia will recognise, although not all have such an aggressive type as Peter.’ 

‘I found it witty, emotional and sometimes spiritual,’ says Sue Last, a carer in north Wales. ‘It graphically portrays the very different ways in which dementia can manifest itself.’ 

Andrew Rodwell, in London, says, ‘It really struck me that Peter was only 50 when he found out he had this terrible illness. 

‘Something else also resonated – the cruelty of insurance policies with banks for people with Peter’s condition and a fleeting mention of difficulty with HMRC.’ 

This struck a note with Clare too, ‘The bank’s terminal illness policy would not pay out because dementia was not classed as a terminal illness, but they couldn’t remortgage the house or take out a loan because he has a terminal illness!’

Escaping the ‘monster’ 

‘There is never a time in the story when Peter’s dementia is not present,’ says Izabela. ‘He cycles to escape his “dementia monster” and is never weighed down by it for long, but the mounting sense of loss that both Peter and Deb feel is not something that the book tries to hide.’ 

A Sturges, in Cumbria, says. ‘Some dementia-related books are informative but can be depressing to read.

‘Whilst Slow puncture is totally realistic about Peter’s decreasing short-term memory, his enthralling cycling adventures make it a book that is hard to put down.’ 

‘I like the fact that it comes from the perspective of both the person with dementia as well as the observer or friend,’ says Sue. 

Peter Middleton agrees, ‘This is a well-written commentary on the descent into dementia, as seen from the perspectives of both the subject and a close friend. It is funny, poignant and profound.’ 

Dedication and joy 

‘The aspect of this book that I’ve found sits with me the most is Peter’s dedication to living, and to living well,’ says Izabela. ‘It is Deb’s dedication to Peter, and their joy at cycling together. It is the effect that one person can have on another’s life, regardless of circumstances.’ 

Joe says, ‘Having to live with dementia, Peter still shows empathy and understanding of the effect it has on his loved ones, and yet Peter continues to move forward to the best of his ability.’ 

‘I’ve never been a cyclist, I prefer my two feet!’ says Jane. ‘But the adventures are well told and entertaining and were a good read.’ 

Anne Marie adds, ‘What a wonderful moving achievement by Peter and his family – wishing them some more happy memories!’ 

Slow puncture: Living well with dementia by Peter Berry and Deb Bunt (Book Guild 2020), 200 pages, £9.99, ISBN: 9781913208936. Also available as an ebook. 

Dementia together magazine: Dec 20/Jan 21

Dementia together magazine is for all Alzheimer’s Society supporters and anyone affected by the condition.
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Dementia together magazine is for all Alzheimer’s Society supporters and anyone affected by the condition.
Subscribe now