Candia McWilliam proved yet again to this reviewer that she is a woman made of very special qualities. Not only does she possess the talent to turn the description of every day objects into the most beautiful prose—written or spoken—but she has the power and magnetism to inspire beauty and hope even in the saddest human soul.
A Scottish treasure, Candia is partially blind after falling victim to a condition that causes functional blindness through the sufferer being unable to open her eyes. A few years ago she underwent an operation to try to overcome Blepharospasm, which involved cutting away the eyelids and introducing tendons sourced from the back of the knee in order to allow some sight to be possible.
Through this enforced period of blindness, Candia McWilliam wrote her memoir, What To Look For In Winter. “I never wanted to write a memoir,” she said. “It was thrust on me by the specificity of going blind.”
But through this blindness she has seen the world in a new way. “Any deprivation of the senses leads to a new way of seeing things,” she explains, before going on to describe every day things such as police car lights and the sound of a cat, in the most beautiful spoken prose. As for the word to describe the sound of car tyres on a wet cobbled street, “I have yet to find a book festival audience that can give me one.”
As humorous as she is inspiring, it was too quick an hour in her presence as she guided us through her experience with the disease that cruelly cost her her sight. Yet she still has the ability to feel compassion for others, in describing the young Australian girl whose operation to cure the same condition went wrong and was left worse off.
Candia is looking forward to her next novel, due to be delivered to the publishers towards the end of this year, as do all fans of her writing.