We read a novel that portrays the impact of one woman’s dementia on her family and community.
Here and Now is a novel by the best-selling author Santa Montefiore, who has written over 20 books.
Caroline Branney, who manages our Dementia Knowledge Centre, says, ‘On this occasion, Montefiore has chosen to base her story around a woman in her 60s who runs a village shop in rural England.
‘We gradually get to know Marigold, her family and friends. Montefiore introduces them and their lives in a natural but absorbing way, so that we can imagine what life must be like for them.
‘There are various subplots about her daughters and other members of the community. These include romance and amusing stories about pets, gossip and neighbours.’
Ann Bird in West Midland says, ‘This book is a wonderful read, I could not put it down. It’s very poignant.’
Caroline says, ‘Slowly, the author introduces Marigold and her lifestyle, then her memory lapses, tiredness and confusion.
‘At first Marigold keeps her health problems and worries to herself, but we are party to some particular incidents which signal that possibly there is something seriously wrong.
‘At the same time, we empathise with her and her circle of friends and family as they too become aware that Marigold has difficulties.’
Ann says, ‘The characters come to life on every page – I laughed and cried with them and felt all their emotions.
‘It was lovely to see it from all sides and how they came together on this journey.’
Caroline says, ‘Without giving too much of the plot away, the story is entertaining but also provides refreshing ideas about taking opportunities, appreciating people and family relationships.
‘I think the portrayal of dementia and how it affects individuals and communities is realistic overall, covering topics such as denial, stigma, diagnosis, support and conflicting priorities.
‘When one of Marigold’s daughters states that dementia isn’t a disease – which is true of dementia in itself – part of me wanted the book to go on to explain that dementia is caused by diseases that affect the brain. However, it is a novel and not a factsheet, I suppose!
‘We learn how adult daughters might feel about a parent who needs extra attention and may not be able to continue in their care-giving role. We understand more about how a partner of someone with dementia might feel when faced with a changing relationship, and of course we also find out how Marigold herself responds and reacts to her changing situation.
‘There is plenty of humour as well as some sadness and reflection on life and on taking the kind of decisions which will be familiar to anyone with lived experience.’
Ann sums up, ‘It’s a must-read.’
Caroline says, ‘Whether this is a typical account of what can happen is up to the reader to decide. Based on my knowledge, many of the descriptions and events seem feasible.
‘I think the most important message is that everyone is different, and everyone with dementia is also different. So, although Marigold reacts in a certain way, this will not be the case for everyone.
‘Montefiore says that, above all, the book is “about enduring love, the kind of love that survives whatever obstacles are put in its way”.
‘Certainly, this novel conjures up a lovely family and community so that we warm to many of the characters, particularly to Marigold, who is such a popular and well-loved part of their lives.’
Here and Now, by Santa Montefiore (Simon & Schuster 2021), 416 pages, £8.99, ISBN 9781471169694. Also available as an ebook and audiobook.