February 7, 2019

Senseless by Anna Lickley book review – The Average Reader

By The Average Reader

Beth’s partner, Dan, inexplicably vanishes from her life and nine years later she is still struggling. In the intervening years, she has learnt British Sign Language (BSL) and got what she thought would be her dream job, supporting deaf students in college. However, she finds she still feels dissatisfied with just about everything: from working life to sex life, domestic life to social life, it’s as if the traumas of her past will forever mar her future.

Through her work, Beth meets a group of strong-minded, pragmatists who show her how they’ve adapted to challenges of having a disability.

Is Dan’s disappearance the primary source of Beth’s sadness? Can her new friends help to shift her perspective on dealing with life? Will learning BSL prove to be significant after all? And what really happened to Dan? The answers may be quite unexpected.

The themes and characters of Senseless are moulded by the challenges of deafness and disability but the book is not ‘about’ disability per se. More succinctly, it’s about ordinary people bumping through the ups and downs of life like we all are.

My Review

I found this book to be an easy, interesting and absorbing read. The book begins with the main character Beth coming home from work and finding a note from her live in partner Dan.

I loved you so much Beth, I’m so sorry. D xx

The story moves on to nine years later.

Beth has been through so much in her young life and not only the mysterious disappearance of Dan, as if that wasn’t enough, but has also had to cope with the loss of two family members much earlier in her life. The narrative does switch back to that time where all is explained including the terrible aftermath of the event.

Nine years later, Beth is then working as a Community Support worker in the Student Services of a Small college, working with deaf and deaf/blind students. Beth’s BSL (British Sign Language) tutor is a deaf/blind woman called Paula.

Beth’s grief and low self esteem is taking her life on a downward path and she’s been drinking heavily and has joined a dating agency where random members meet up for soulless no-strings sex.

Her former work colleague Ricky, who has become Beth’s long standing friend, is married and although they only usually meet up for friendly drinks as pals, their relationship takes them on a different path.

When Beth accompanies Paula to a weekend trip to a riding school for disabled, she meets interesting people including Steve who has MS. Along with Steve, Beth meets other riders who appear to be coping with their disabilities and who try to draw Beth into their friendly group but at first she is reluctant and reticent. Fearing the contact and the interest in her from strangers. She is drawn to Sam a former fireman who has MS. Slowly the group help each other and the dynamics between them all are good and they all become quite close. Each one is living with difficult circumstances and they gain more strength from each other. Beth is sorry to leave the centre at the end of the weekend.

I learned a lot from the descriptions of BSL, those who use it and those who need it to communicate. My husband has been deaf since he developed substantial hearing loss in middle age and has recently had a Cochlear Implant that is successful. Unfortunately though prior to this operation he would never entertain the idea of BSL, even though it would have been helpful for him if both of us could have learnt it. It can be a lonely life without a method of communication for deaf people. Fortunately though he was able to lip read at times but it’s been difficult all round.

I was fascinated by the use of nicknames by those who are deaf between each other and their support workers.

I also recognised the difficulties faced by Sam who has to use a wheelchair on bad days. I too am disabled, can’t walk far and need a powered chair for mobility purposes. In the story, I recognised the description of attitudes of able bodied people towards those in chairs or using other aids. The sickly sweet smiles and the condescension. Also the grandiose show boating attitudes of some of those like Gemma, Beth’s work colleague who love to be seen doing good work but really have no empathy or understanding of those they purport to be helping.

I really needed to read something like this because it was a dose of fresh air after reading so many crime fiction novels recently.

To include such helpful knowledge without being in any way preachy and weave a story around such things shows considerable writing skill by the author.

I’ve learned a lot and become much more aware of certain things from this book.

Seriously, when I read the book and profile of this author it makes me much more aware and not for the first time of how people take their health for granted and gripe about the small stuff in life.

I’d certainly like to read more from this author.

Fans of Me Before You by Jo Jo Moyes might enjoy this one.

About the Author

Anna Lickley

Anna’s adult life has been moulded a great deal by challenges on her physical health and needing to adapt to them. She was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2) in the 1980s when she was 16. NF2 is a complex genetic illness involving benign tumours developing on nerves throughout the body, usually in the brain or spine. As a result, she went deaf whilst at University and began to learn British Sign Language to help with communication. She loved the language immediately and went on to became fluent enough to teach it. In the last 5 years, Anna’s vision has deteriorated and she is now registered deafblind. That and other health complications led her to stop working. Although sad to leave a job she loved, she is now relishing having more time to write and much of her writing is greatly influenced by her desire to share the realities of living with disability. Anna wrote and self-published a semi-autobiographical novel called Catch it Anytime You Canin 2012 and has in mind a title and plot outline for a further novel. She is in-house writer for Can You Hear Us CIC, a social enterprise dedicated to the needs of people with NF2 and also loves writing poetry, short stories and articles. Senseless is her first full-length work of fiction. Outside of writing, she loves horse riding and competes at dressage with the RDA (Riding for the Disabled Association)

To Purchase on Amazon