Constellations: Reflections from Life by Sinéad Gleeson

This collection of essays by Sinéad Gleeson is superb. I’ll admit shallowness; it was the oh-so-beautiful cover that enticed me in, but I stayed for the words. Gleeson writes crystal clear prose on what it is to be a woman, a mother, to endure pain, illness, disability. She writes about loss and fear, grief and life, art, the church. Her words moved me, nourished me, chimed. Her essays about being a patient and losing self in a hospital are particularly striking, perhaps more now than ever as we face Coronavirus.

“And a fear, familiar as night, creeps in. That the implicit trust we put in the medical world has been misplaced.”

“The hospital is a place of necessary quarantine where control must be abdicated. Inside, there are risks. Of not waking up post-anaesthetic, infections, encounters with MRSA, the hail of germs from sneezing, tissue-less visitors. The overly solicitous chats from the stranger in the next bed.

The air. Can we talk about the air? The coagulation of smells. Other people, cleaning products, distant hot-plated food with no singular tang. The metallic, surgical dregs of something disappearing. Vomit. Inhale. Hand sanitiser. Breathe. Disinfectant. Exhale.”

A masterclass.

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