Book of the Week

Love Like Salt: A Memoir by Helen Stevenson. Photo: PA Photo/Atlantic Books
Love Like Salt: A Memoir by Helen Stevenson. Photo: PA Photo/Atlantic Books

Love Like Salt: A Memoir by Helen Stevenson is published in hardback by Virago.

“The child will soon die whose brow tastes salty when kissed,” warned an ancient medical textbook.

Nowadays we know this to be the genetic condition cystic fibrosis, which prevents salt passing easily from one cell to the next.

The life expectancy of such children is improving all the time, but it’s still a diagnosis to drive a dagger into a parent’s heart.

Helen Stevenson’s memoir of raising a daughter with cystic fibrosis in rural France - whilst simultaneously dealing with her mother’s dementia - is far from being a sisterly, accessible account of the Sandwich Generation.

Anyone who expects that will be disappointed. Stevenson is not Everywoman, nor wants to be.

Instead, she devotes long passages of the book to spiritual and philosophical musings, and penetrating observations about French society. Stick with it: this is a beautiful love letter to her family from an intelligent woman who has had to dig deep just to survive.