Book Review: NOT AGAIN by Richard von Hippel
|5 stars, 1 review|
Richard von Hippelabout this book: NOT AGAIN is the memoir of an ultimate survivor. Not only has Iris Ann Cullimore overcome a serious, childhood sexual assault, domestic violence, being stalked, a brain haemorrhage followed by multiple strokes, severe disability, a tumour on the bowel and much more, but for every life crash her indomitable spirit emerges from the wreckage with an unquenchable zest for life, fun and laughter.
During my years as a Complementary/Alternative Therapist I have met some truly inspirational people, but Iris is in such a superior league that even the many hospital Consultants who have time and time again repaired her life battered body express nothing but admiration for her.
Though often shocking to the point of disbelief this unforgettable and always verifiable life story has been written as an inspiration for anyone who is not afraid to learn the true nature of courage, which for the most part walks unseen amongst us.
As for the front cover - from the time her childhood was shattered Iris's life has lurched from one explosive event to another, with only brief periods of fun-filled respite between each trauma. That is the reason for the explosive image and for the title Not Again. The quote "My body's a write off but I'm all right" is one of the first things she said to me when we talked about enrolling her into a free Complementary Therapy program I'd set up for a Community Association that was regenerating three deprived estates and I was so impressed by her attitude that I've never forgotten that statement.
Including the professional edit the book took about eight months to write and the most difficult part of the process was keeping my own emotions out of the story, which my editor says has - unintentionally on my part - given the book a strange and compelling quality, like a Lowry painting come to life.
When I started putting down Iris's story, after nearly seven years of working with her I knew there were shocking and quite famous memoirs that had been proven to be less than truthful. That is why I verified everything she told me before I included it and that did take a lot of time but at least I am comfortable with the finished work.
There is no room for self-pity in the mindset of Iris Ann Cullimore and the most important message of this book is that although there may be times in your life when fun and laughter seem impossible dreams, you must seize every chance to live your life to the fullest extent that you can, with no regrets and no recriminations. As long as you are alive you must keep on fighting and trying. This is what Iris has taught so many of us, and this book is our way of passing her message on to you.
"Not Again is a rare book. It is difficult to find an equivalent work. It is one whose echoes will remain somewhere in the deep of the mind long after the reader finishes the last page". — Peter Makem (award winning Journalist, Poet and Editor)
The following selection of Current Reviews for NOT AGAIN are posted on Amazon:
5.0 out of 5 stars
One Courageous Woman!
Reviewed By Leila Summers
Once I started reading this book, I couldn't put it down. This is a truly amazing story about the life of Iris, a courageous woman who must have the worst luck and yet the best luck all at the same time. Through disaster after disaster, Iris perseveres, and somehow manages to find the strength to carry on regardless, even laughing and having fun whenever she can. Her resilience is mind-boggling and one can only stand back in awe. I commend Iris for telling her incredible story and Richard von Hippel, for writing it down. I found it extremely inspirational.
5.0 out of 5 stars
This is an important book, a book many readers won't be able to put down
Reviewed by Johann David Renner
What a book! - What a life! - And so much courage! - Here a quote from the book, when the book's protagonist and main author, Iris, reflected on what her life experience looked like at around the age of forty: "I'd lived for over forty years, been raped at eleven years of age, been forced into sex by my only fiancé, been raped and `battered' by two husbands, had three children, one affair, and I'd nearly died from a brain haemorrhage, but I'd never had a `normal' relationship, in the `normal' way, with a `normal' boyfriend." But that's not all the misery she experienced. There is an AWFUL LOT MORE.
This is an important book, a book many readers won't be able to put down. I was frequently torn between anger and admiration. There are descriptions of events and real life people that are disgusting and inexcusable, both the events and the people. More than once I would have loved to beat up one of Iris's boyfriends or husbands.
At the same time, this book shows the immense resilience a human being, in this case Iris, can master in the face of almost insurmountable adversity. This book gives hope to people who are struggling with bad relationships, illness and other kinds of hardship. I like the style in which the book was written. You can hear Iris talking - telling you her story.
She is a remarkable woman, who despite all she went through never lost her subtle sense of humour. At times even for the people who made her life miserable, she is able to show understanding. And then of course there are the people who helped her and saved her life more than once. They are appropriately included. The only slightly unsatisfying aspect of this book is its ending. It is a somewhat abrupt ending, which would be okay for a novel, but not for a memoir, I thought.
However, this could easily be addressed in a future edition with a three or four page epilogue, which perhaps could even be written by the therapist, because he, too, is not adequately brought to life (at his own request, I realise that). I recommend this book and give it five stars. - Reviewed by Fred Schäfer, author of The Solution Within Yourself: Closing the gap between who you are today and who you want to be tomorrow.
5.0 out of 5 stars
Reviewed By lorna
I loved this book, could not put it down, cannot believe anybody having to go through this, really don't know how she stayed so strong, but I am so glad she did, there was nothing in this book that I disliked, and I would and have already recommended to people.
Extract (From Chapter: 11)
We were due to sign the papers on Saturday the 3rd of November 1990 and I had everything sorted by Wednesday the 31st October which just happened to be Halloween. But I never got to sign the papers because my aneurysm burst and I brain haemorrhaged at 10.15 p.m. that Wednesday night which was only eighteen days after my 39th birthday and just 3 days before we were due to sign for the Café.
We'd spent most of that Halloween day finalising the deal on the Café and I'd had my own work to do, as well. By the time I'd finished it was late and they told me I was turning to get a spoon for a Yoghurt I'd just got out of the 'fridge when I put my hand to my head, screamed, and fell to the floor unconscious.
They said that after I screamed and fell unconscious Tony picked me up off the floor and laid me on the living room couch while he tried to bring me round by slapping my face.
Slapping my face to bring me round from a stroke was the sort of stupid thing that Tony would do and my head was rocking from side to side all the way to the Casualty at the BRI (Bradford Royal Infirmary), where my head kept on rocking from side to side and the top of my head kept swelling up until it was massive.
I was lucky enough that a young doctor working in Casualty diagnosed me with either a brain haemorrhage or a brain infection. He called for his boss, Dr Shaw, but before he arrived they'd got me stabilised enough to transfer me onto Ward 5 where the next doctor who took care of me was Dr J Wright and they said that he and his Staff Nurse Sian took so many blood and other tests that by the time Dr Shaw arrived on the Ward I looked like a pin cushion.
Dr Shaw must have been at a 'Do' because they said he arrived on the Ward wearing a Tuxedo. I don't know if Dr Shaw ever knew I was a cousin of his, through him being a son of dad's Uncle Gordon, though the luckiest part of that coincidence was Dr Shaw knew Mr Towns, the Neurological Surgeon at Pinderfields Hospital at Wakefield.
Pinderfields was not only a top Neurosurgery hospital but Mr Towns is also one of the very best Neurosurgeons in the whole country so I couldn't have got luckier than Dr Shaw phoning Mr Towns to ask him if he would accept me to go there. Mr Towns is such a nice and caring man he agreed to operate and I don't know if I could hear the Ambulance Siren going off while I was being rushed to Pinderfields, but to this day I get a really weird and sickly feeling every time I hear an Ambulance Siren.
My therapist told me he doesn't know if it's true, but some people say a person's hearing is the very last thing to go, which might help to explain that feeling I get when I hear an Ambulance Siren.
The most important thing is that the Ambulance got me to Pinderfields in time for them to operate and while they were operating on my brain Tony and his mum were off signing the papers for the Café, even though they didn't know if I was going to come out of the operation alive or dead, or like a baby, knowing nothing at all for the rest of my life, either of which could have happened to me because I had another stroke while I was on the operating table.
The second stroke collapsed my lungs and stopped my heart, and when they'd managed to sort all of that out, Mr Towns Understudy had so much trouble with 'clipping' the aneurysm that Mr Towns had to take over.
And from now on it's up to you to believe what you want to believe, because a strange thing happened to me during the operation...
Extract (From Chapter: 12)
Every time anyone told me I was going to be laid flat on my back in bed for the rest of my life I'd always told them I'd made up my mind I was going to bloody well prove them all wrong, and every time the nurses had cheered me on with "Good! Good! Good for you!"
And then as soon as I was up to it they began taking me down to the gym, twice a day. First they'd help me get changed into a pair of shorts before taking me out into the main gym, where the Physios had pulled two raised up beds together side by side with a space between them in case I needed something to lean on while they were teaching me how to stand and walk again.
They'd started me off with simple things like learning to move my legs on my own and when I could do that for myself, they got me to put one foot in front of the other, moving forward all the time.
There were always two physios at the front of me and one at the back just to make sure I didn't fall, and every time we did those walking exercises I would do a little bit more until I could get to the far end of the beds. And once I could do that the physios would hold onto me while they got me to turn around and it was always 'Go! Go! Go!' with me.
I won't pretend I wasn't frightened of falling, and a lot of the time I was shaking and trembling but there was never a time that I didn't want to give it my 'best shot', which must have sometimes worried the Physios who were always asking me "Are you sure you're not too tired?"
Whenever they'd ask me if I was tired I'd always tell them I wasn't, and to keep on going. If you're going to give something you're best shot, you've always got something to prove, and then you've 'got' to do it.
There were probably loads of times I didn't manage to do it, but I always tried my hardest with everything they gave me to do in the Gym as well as all the exercises I did for myself on the Ward, and even if I didn't manage to do it I would always keep on trying and always keep on smiling. That's probably why the nurses and physios always made me their 'Star Patient' and whenever the other Physio 'regulars' saw me coming into the Gym they used to shout out, "Oh! Smiler's here!"
What with all the nurses and physios making me their 'Star Patient', as well as the other regulars cheering me on in the Gym, and my constant exercising I went from learning to sit up on my own to being able to stand and transfer myself by the time Christmas was over. And what a Christmas I had on that Ward!...
preview: read a sample from this book
what to read next: if you read and liked this book...
One Courageous WomanOnce I started reading this book, I couldn't put it down. This is a truly amazing story about the life of Iris, a courageous woman who must have the worst luck and yet the best luck all at the same time. Through disaster after disaster, Iris perseveres, and somehow manages to find the strength to carry on regardless, even laughing and having fun whenever she can. Her resilience is mind-boggling and one can only stand back in awe. I commend Iris for telling her incredible story and Richard von Hippel, for writing it down. I found it extremely inspirational. [by Leila Summers]
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