Royal Society Science Book Prize 2017 shortlist: In Pursuit of Memory: The Fight Against Alzheimer’s by Joseph Jebelli

Review published on September 20, 2017.

When you think of diseases that kill people, cancer and heart disease would most top people’s list, but with the population in the Western world getting older, other illnesses are having an effect on mortality rates and people’s quality of life. One of the most significant is Alzheimer’s, a cruel disease that leaves the shell of the person whilst stealing their personality, dignity and their memories. The first time that Joseph Jebelli came across this illness was when he was twelve years old and his grandfather started doing strange things and becoming ‘indefinably peculiar’; gone was the warm person he had known. This family tragedy became a pivotal point in his life and drove him to pursue a career in science researching the very disease that claimed his grandfather.

I felt totally alone, with the world receding away from me in every direction, and you could have used my anger to weld steel – Sir Terry Pratchett

Jebelli is now an established expert in the field of Alzheimer’s research and in this interesting and informative book he sets about describing the background with Alois Alzheimer’s discovery of the illness in 1906 all the way up to the current understanding of the science behind this distressing disease. Travelling all over the world he talks to the people at the cutting edge in laboratories about the latest avenues of research as they race to find a cure. He takes time to talk to sufferers and their families, gaining a heartfelt understanding of the anguish they go through every day. It is a clear and well-written exploration of the different efforts that encompass research into Alzheimer’s. There is a small amount on Sir Terry Pratchett, who was sadly one of those to get early onset Alzheimer’s, or his embuggerance as he called it. He donated a fairly hefty sum of money to enable research, but more importantly, he spoke about his illness and spent time raising awareness of it. Jebelli writes about a difficult and personal subject in a way that brings clarity to the dark world that is Alzheimer’s; I can highly recommend this book.

Paul Cheney 4/4

In Pursuit of Memory: The Fight Against Alzheimer’s by Joseph Jebelli
John Murray 9781473635739 hbk Jun 2017

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