This is the autobiographical story of a British doctor who, a month after the birth of her second child, returns to Nepal. The book describes what drives her to leave – what drives her to ignore the admonitions of doctors and their gloomy prognostications about her son. Quitting Cambridge means abandoning access to good medical care. She doesn’t know what to expect but fears the worst, yet she hopes it will allow the child to live in dignity and happiness; it certainly allows him to escape daily blood tests, feeding tubes, hospitals and institutions. Family life returns to normal as he defies his doctors’ predictions. Back in Nepal, life is no longer dominated by hospitals and the parents learn from the tolerant accepting attitudes of the locals they live and work with. The mother struggles with guilt, often thinking that she has made the wrong decision, but guilt is mitigated by seeing a joyous carefree child develop.
A group of giggling young Nepali mothers gathered around to see my five-week-old: to compare babies. They took him from me and pressed in to see. ‘How beautiful,’ ‘Such soft white skin,’ ‘These little holes in his ears are a gift from heaven.’ This was the first time strangers had admired my new baby, and at that moment I knew that it had been right to flee England. There he’d been still as a rag doll; he twitched at any noise and vomited after each tube-feed. He was suffering. Panic often showed in his eyes. We didn’t know what to expect of the future. All we knew was that it would be better than submitting to what the Cambridge doctors had planned for our quiet beautiful baby.
We had been living in urban Nepal, but would be moving to remote Rajapur Island in the middle of the largest tributary of the Ganges. We were up-beat about going but Nepalis warned of the heat, bandits and disease in the Plains. On Rajapur though we entered an accepting, straightforward community where David was special – touched by god – not abnormal. Our neighbours saw beyond his handicap. He stopped twitching at the slightest sound and he rallied physically too. Soon there was a sparkle in his eyes and slowly, he started to respond to us, even tease us. We were right to take him away to Nepal. And David’s older brother, Alexander, was spared spending his early years in dank England, hanging about in hospital waiting rooms. We settled into a contented, sleepy life on our island where we lived close to tiger, rhino and wild elephant, and village boys taught Alexander to climb mango trees, make catapults, catch skinks and fly kites.
The one sympathetic hospital doctor in Cambridge had advised us to treat David normally and we took this as a licence to take him on his first trek; at the age of four months, we packed up David’s heart medicines and tubes and headed up over precipitous drops and wobbly rope bridges to explore drippy forests and mediaeval hill-forts. The mountains were spectacular and healing. Strangely David’s heart disease protected him from the affects of high altitude. Our arrival in each mountain village was heralded by choruses of, ‘Children have come!’ We’d be surrounded and David taken from his carrying basket to be handed around for all to cuddle. He glowed in all this attention. He smiled and burbled appreciatively at all his admirers. Nepalis helped us see David’s qualities and talent for laughter.
I took up a little part-time health work, taking David with me to village meetings as part of my credentials for talking with the women. Our Nepali neighbours had their own problems yet they took life as it came and dealt with their hardships cheerily. Their spirituality and fatalism seemed to allow them to snatch some joy out of life too, and they helped us see our situation in proportion and live contentedly with our – at times – uneasy child. We did not dwell on David’s problems but, having absorbed the positive aspects of both cultures, could enjoy his happy personality and increasingly mischievous sense of humour.
This book describes the emotions of facing up to having a special child. It also shows that throughout all this we did not allow David’s problems to swamp us. We could still laugh, be optimistic. The book looks at some difficult issues surrounding disability and the ethics of who should be treated – or not. It contrasts our unhealthy, unhelpful Western views of imperfection and death with a more tolerant, fatalistic view in Nepal. There it was easier to take life day by day.
This book had an exceedingly long and at times painful gestation. It began as a simple travel narrative. I wanted to write about caste and slavery and wildlife. I felt shy of sharing David with my readers. However my agent at the time, Sarah Leigh at Peters Fraser and Dunlop, was astute enough to notice that there was something missing and suggested that rather than gloss over David’s troubled existence, he should come centre stage.
Once I committed to this becoming David’s book, it started to take shape and assume a form that pleased me - finally. It grew then during the ten years I worked on it into an unrecognisable being. It is a book that I have often lost confidence in, particularly when several literary agents were rude or patronising about it. I hope now though that it communicates my passion for Nepal and it is a fitting tribute to David.
Several readers have asked about the Nepali script in the book. The text on page 410 reads 'pheri betau la, David' which roughly translates as until we meet again. 'Pheri betau la' appears again on page 415. I did hope to persuade the publisher to run Nepali translations of each chapter title as examples of Devanagri because I love the look of the script, but we got into a few tangles with design and layout. Finally we decided to use just the first two letters of David's name as the chapter headers and for page breaks, which I think works well. The result is - I believe - a superb book, and it is one that doesn't rapidly disintegrate like some paperbacks produced in the northern hemisphere.
Finally I should apologise for the typo in the glossary. There are - of course - not 8 Nepali Rupees to the dollar but about 80; or about 120 to the British pound.
Reading Group Notes
Book Group participants might like to consider and discuss the following questions. I have broadly grouped them into questions relating to the medical/parenting issues and then questions about Nepal:
‘You’re carrying your baby like a monkey!’ an ancient woman shouted as we ducked into the small, smoky shack. We sat down on a couple of benches; Simon ordered tea as I extracted David from the baby-carrier and suckled him. The woman wandered inside; I now saw that she was prematurely wrinkly and actually about my own age. She watched me for a few minutes, then said, ‘Why were you out in the sun with one so young? Your milk will get too hot!’ I was growing used to unwanted advice, but this came with a smile; it wasn’t like the criticism of the doctors we’d fled from a couple of weeks before.
‘The baby is beautiful, sister,’ she said. Then, when David burped and regurgitated a little, ‘See! He’s vomiting! You’ve curdled your milk!’ Pouting her lips towards Simon, she then turned on him. ‘Is this the father of the children? Why haven’t you bought her any gold? Aren’t you embarrassed for your wife to be seen walking in the bazaar without gold?’ Simon just chuckled, but I wanted to defend him. I showed her my engagement and wedding rings. ‘The colour of this gold is poor, and you need earrings, bahini!’ Then to Simon again, her eyes twinkling, ‘She has been a good wife: she has made two fine sons. Why do you dishonour her so?’
Simon’s eyes sparkled too. ‘But my wife is Tibetan,’ he lied. ‘Surely you know that they never wear gold?’
‘Ah mai — you eaters of cows, you are all the same.’
A scrawny cockerel with delusions of grandeur chased one of his harem noisily past us. Silhouetted in the low doorway, blocking out the light, was a whispering, watching huddle of young women. They didn’t dare venture inside, but it was obvious who they were discussing. As I smiled at them, they started to giggle. Two fled with their hands over their mouths. We downed our glasses of thick, sweet tea and left while the young women pleaded with us to let them keep David.
(from page 109)
I looked out on an alien scene. Someone blew on a conch. I took in the big sky of the Plains. Beyond the house there was a lovely patchwork of a bright yellow crop and lush winter wheat. The colours were sharp and astonishingly crisp. I could have been home in England hemmed in with grey drizzle, or brushing past people cocooned by stress and self-absorption. I thought of the life I'd led, commuting with my brain switched off, ignoring the world: cars and personal stereos keep reality out.
A cock crowed and received several answers. I started to see again: people herded cattle out ot graze or took flowers to the temple; there were soft groans of buffalo- or ox-cart wheels as men moved rice, brought timber or thatch. Tharu women wearing bright blues and orange walked elegantly erect with water pots or piles of firewood on their heads. Tinselly Badi women dressed in pink and purple swept out their shacks after the night's lucrative work.
(from page 46)
... even doctors - or perhaps especially doctors - need to be touched by something personally to understand the suffering of others. We've been taught about the enormous power over life and death that is invested in us; we can be deluded into thinking we are almighty. Almost instinctively we view death, incurable disease and disability as challenging our power. We forget that these are all part of life.
(from page 71)
Seemingly only a stone’s throw away stood Annapurna South and its Siamese twin Hiunchuli. The Patal Ganga Glacier, wedged between the two giants, slid, cracked and jerked painfully downwards like an old arthritic beast. I watched an avalanche — like a cloud pouring off the mountain. I gazed at the superb angular pinnacle that peeked out shyly from the clouds; the jet stream blew snowy spindrift off the knife-edge ridges. I sat in awe, feeling absolutely no desire whatsoever to conquer even a minor trekking peak.
(from pages 342-3)
One of the few challenges on our trek from Baglung (West Nepal) was finding shade when we stopped in the hot, glary middle of the day. In Lumsum village, there was no shelter anywhere except beside a large, new building, that I only later realised was the clinic. ‘When will the health assistant come?’ I asked waiting patients.
‘Docter — sahib is visiting his family in Jhapa.’
‘Jhapa — but that’s way out east in the tarai.’
‘It is far. He may come after one or two weeks.’ Yet still they waited.
Vacillating about whether to admit that I was a doctor, I eyed up a man whom I could tell even from across the courtyard had pneumonia. Sweat poured off him, and he was breathing hard. I cursed not bringing more antibiotics. I said nothing. Then I realised that our sirdar, Kipa, was ‘treating’ a patient whom I had not even noticed. She lay, a tiny, emaciated, ragged heap, at the feet of the man with pneumonia — her father. She was about five and also had pneumonia. ‘Oral rehydration sachets won’t help her, Kipa, but I have the right treatment in the medical kit that I’ve brought for my children.’
I dripped antibiotic syrup into her mouth while explaining how the rest must be given. Her father was so ill and listless that he didn’t seem to be listening.
Then Father said to me, ‘I need medicine also, huzoor.’
‘There is none,’ I said, still feeling uncomfortable at the unapologetic way Nepali is spoken.
‘That,’ he said pointing with his pouting lips, ‘is the wife of docter-sahib — she has the key.’ The health post was surprisingly well-stocked with an excellent range of basic medicines. Magnanimously, I gave him a course of antibiotics. As I explained how he should take them, I repeated what he needed to do to save his daughter’s life, but he was busy ranting about how it needed a foreigner to come to help and why wasn’t the government man here.
He was angry, yet the longer I spent in the developing world the more I realised that doctors are not as useful as people think. Most medical problems do not really have medical solutions. Medicine merely patches people up, to suffer again. I might have ‘saved’ the five-year-old that time, but I doubt that the child survived for long. As an outsider passing through, it is easy to convince yourself that you are doing good by handing out medicines, but there is no easy cure for poverty.
(from pages 148-9)
A stranger loomed up on me while I was sitting writing in the garden. He was flabby and looked unwashed. ‘I am cook,’ he announced, standing to attention. Gosh. An English-speaker.
‘Ah, good … Are you looking for work?’
‘Can you cook?’ (No harm in establishing some basics first.)
‘I have been tourisss cook in Kathmandu, Thamel-side. You like finger-cheeps, yes?’
‘Yes, sometimes. What else can you cook?
‘Full English menu. All dishes. Potato. Boil carrot. Boil spinach. Egg any style. Every thing.’
‘Any meat dishes?’
‘Yes, memsahib. Boil meat. Anykind.’
When can you start work?’
‘Now,’ he said, and immediately made himself busy. He suggested cooking mahseer. We looked forward to tasty steaks of large river fish, but when he served the dish, I had to ask what it was.
‘Boil fish with ee-special English brown sauce.’
‘How did you make the sauce?’
‘Flour and water mix with little bit warm Mazola oil.’ It had the appearance of the effluvia that runs out from pigsties, but was probably less flavoursome.
‘And the vegetables? What are they?’
‘This is mish-mash — boil cauliflower and banana mix.’
‘Yes, madam. Any problem?’
‘Perhaps tomorrow you can cook Nepali food for us.’
‘You cannot eat Nepali food.’
‘We like it.’
‘That is not possible. Foreigners do not like.’
(from pages 344-5)
chestnut-bellied blue rock thrush and beautiful niltava popped in and out of the low rhododendron forest. There were meadows of ground orchids, geraniums, primulae and gentians. The forest on the sheltered, drier side of the 3414m pass was a mix of magnificent maples in autumn colours, majestic hemlocks, gigantic juniper, blue pine and silver fir: stately trees, so tall it was hard to see to the tops. Beneath, the air smelt of pine and ancient wood, and it was green, so green. Even boulders and tree trunks were covered with a cosy blanket of moss; ferns and orchids sprouted from every available crevice and Himalayan pied woodpeckers played peek-a-boo.
(from page 370)
The Chinese say that there is no scenery in your home town. They are right. Being in another place heightens the senses, allows you to see more, enjoy more, take delight in small things; it makes life richer. You are more alive, less cocooned. The family was certainly closer for our intense times here... That snug thought made me smile again. My years in Nepal had given me some of the richest and highest of times... the marigold garlands had gone now; only fish broke the surface. A lapwing took to the air, scolding us. 'Did ye d-do it? 'Did ye d-do it? 'Did ye do-do-do it?' Moti looked forlorn as we floated away, so Alexander shouted a reassuring, 'Pheri betau la!' (the wonderfully optimistic 'see you again') and waved madly. Moti's stubbly face broke out into his lovely, always disarming smile, and he waved back, 'Pheri betau la! Bye-bye!'
We have trekked in Nepal several times, most recently to Dolpo, and spent (unintentionally) three days in Nepalgunj. As a tourist it is difficult to get close to the local people and culture. Your book provided many valuable insights. We learned a lot from it. ... also ... your lack of self pity and your courage is an inspiration.
Meredith M, Glasgow
“Heart-breaking and life-affirming account of how a Cambridge medical doctor struggled to come to terms with her second child’s disability and how she and her husband fought to make his short life one worth living. Against much opposition from the medical establishment, they returned to Nepal, where they were involved in development work, and where the Nepalese people’s embrace of their ‘beautiful boy’ was in cheering contrast to the silence and embarrassment they had encountered back home. "Jane writes beautifully and while her account of her son's life is very poignant, it is not in any way self-indulgent. .... In addition, Jane's huge love of Nepal, the people, the scenery, the culture and language is spell binding.”
Juliet Rogers, MD, Murdoch Books
“Sometimes perhaps a short life and a happy one is better than anything we doctors have to offer. This is the proverbial "life-changing" book.”
Dr James LeFanu in the Daily Telegraph
"This is a moving but incredibly satisfying story, full of sadness and difficult choices."
Good Book Guide
"Wilson-Howarth is a very accomplished travel writer and the account of the family's 200 mile trek with a three year old in tow is nothing short of mind-boggling"
"Wonderful and moving... reading this book is effortless - as if just chatting to the author"
Peter Pitt FRCS, FRCP author of A Surgeon in Nepal and The Scalpel & the Kukri review in The Writer: Journal of the Society of Medical Writers
"compelling reading, with a blend of personal adversity, humour and information about Nepal. I sat with the atlas beside me following your journeys. David's life may have been short but even the most serious 'interesting cases' recognise and respond to love. He was truely blessed."
Hilary Furlong, Suffolk
I came across your book A Glimpse of Eternal Snows in a second hand book store while looking for some reading to while away hours in a cold tent on an upcoming trekking trip I'm leading in Nepal. The problem is that I've just put it down, having finished it between patients in a short GP locum I'm doing before heading off - so much for my planned mountain reading!
In 1996 I first went to Nepal as a volunteer doc with the Himalayan Rescue Association working in Manang on the Annapurna circuit, I had just spent 5 months volunteering at a hospital in Dharamsala, India with the Tibetan Government in exile. Your book took me on a journey remembering that time of trying to help those with so much less than me living on the subcontinent. I'm lucky to have been back many times since then, although I have yet to visit the Terai.
Thank you for writing the book and sharing your story with the world.
Dr Andrew Peacock, Sunshine Beach, QLD, Australia
“I was greatly relieved to find [that this book is] completely unsentimental yet at the same time very moving... The most powerful impression that remains is of the great vibrancy of Nepal and its people... The prose is consistently good and at times quite exquisite. It seems a very bold thing to write a book which is simultaneously a family memoir, a travel book, a social observation of a poor country, a natural history and an adventure story. Jane has managed to do so outstandingly well.“
Harry Goode, Cambridge Writers
Wilson-Howarth does, as is expected, notice the dirt, the lack of hygiene and the poverty, but the flame of the forest blazes brighter than all that, setting her firmly apart from many expats who treat their Third World experiences as a kind of slum tourism.
"I have just today finished your book A Glimpse of Eternal Snows and want to tell you how much I enjoyed it. I admire your decision to take your son David away from what would have been an never ending round of doctors and treatment had you remained in England yet it cannot have been an easy decision to make and carry through. I think however you can take pride that, in the final analysis, it was the correct decision. You gave him as happy a life as it was possible for him to have - you should be proud of your son and the life you gave him.
The narrative is both insightful and beautifully textured. I just loved the descriptions of life in Nepal and all the wildlife in your book - it was all so very evocative. In total a wonderful read and the sort of book that stays with you after finishing it."
Lesley Stoddart by email April 2011
“I loved reading about little David... who sounds as though he had a short but very colourful life full of love. You really described his bubbly character and I loved the descriptions and picture of him... sounding so happy and contented. Your book has been particularly useful at the moment for me... I am struggling with my nine month old baby who has started waking for long periods at night and for feeds. I found your book so refreshing to read - on how you coped with three small children under such difficult circumstances... I was also reassured that you fed Sebastian in the middle of the night when he was a year. In the era of Gina Ford and the 'feeling you are getting it wrong' it is so lovely to hear about someone who did things so differently.”
Julie W, Saffron Walden
“I would encourage anyone going to Nepal to read your book. Most travellers only interact fleetingly with the Nepalese. Your [Jane’s] experiences will give others the understanding they do not have time to absorb.”
Susan Salmon, letter from Sydney
"thanks for sharing your family's life in Nepal. A Glimpse of Eternal Snows was a very moving story, especially of David's life. On my recent visit to Nepal I had the privilege of visiting the British cemetery and David's grave. It was a peaceful lovely place, with red bougainvilleas in flower. Your book was also a useful reference guide on my trip."
A rainy couple of days gave me the ideal opportunity to curl up and read your book. It is a riveting and deeply emotional tale and I am full of admiration for you on many levels. It is an overwhelming tale of grief; denial, anger fiercely directed against the clever doctors, guilt and I hope ultimately resolution, because here is a book of triumph of David's short life. I clearly remember coming to visit you on the first trip back to England with David. Alexander was out with friends and I played on the floor with David and remember his smile and infectious laugh. You told me of your trek and how the children had joined you, carried by the guides and how David had thrived in Nepal. So I remember him. David was loved and cherished, accepted and stimulated and he has enriched the lives of others and will continue to do so through your book.
You are poetic in your description of the countryside and wildlife. It is obviously your passion and your spiritual solace. I had a strong feeling of what it was like to live and work in Rajapur. Reading the book, I travelled into a world of my own and I have also spent the last two days reminiscing about PNG. You are very honest about the challenges you faced and I admire your strength of character and determination. The country and cultures are totally different but we have shared some of the experiences of being a third world expatriate. I lived in a town of about 25,000 people. I have never come to terms with the violence or my total sense of failure as a doctor.
It is such a powerful story. You can expect people to have strong reactions to it because it does challenge the reader to think about disability and illness, life and death. It challenges us to think about the third world and what is important in our lives. It will challenge some religious views. That will be uncomfortable for some people.
I am delighted to hear that it is selling well in Australia (despite calling jandles flip-flops) and I am sure it will do well when it goes global. Good book club material.
Dr Veronica Spooner, GP
I'm another Murdoch's author (Holding up the Sky). Diana, my editor, often slips me books to read in the Pier 9 line and I've just finished yours. I thoroughly enjoyed it and loved getting to know David. What a gift! It saddens me to hear that people in England wouldn't even acknowledge his existence. I'm so glad you changed the focus of the book and put him in the centre of it. I've enjoyed my daily bus rides into Sydney from the Northern Beaches, having you, David, Simon, Alexander and Sebastian for company.
Sandy Blackburn-Wright www.wrightings.com.au
"consistently brilliant; a joy to get lost in..."
JW - Surrey
I have just today finished your book A Glimpse of Eternal Snows and want to say how much I enjoyed it. I admire your decision to take your son David away from what would have been an never ending round of doctors and treatment had you remained in England yet it cannot have been an easy decision to make and carry through. I think however you can take pride that, in the final analysis, it was the correct decision. You gave him as happy a life as it was possible for him to have.... you should be proud of your son and the life you gave him. I know you really are proud of him so do not ever feel you should hide his existence.
I just loved the descriptions of life in Nepal and all the wildlife in your book - it was all so very evocative. In total a wonderful read and the sort of book that stays with you for a while after finishing it.
Lesley by email
"I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your book. I found it very moving and read the last chapter through tears. I loved the way you wrote about David and he will stay with me for a long time: you painted him so vividly."
Carrie Boyes, London
Have you ever lived and/or worked for extended periods in a Third World country? If yes, then you will relate well to this book. It will jog your memory on coping with the inevitable cultural differences we face. Have you ever been trekking in Nepal? If so, then reading this book will bring back many memories of your experiences there. Or have you had the personal experience of bringing into the world a severely physically and mentally disabled baby? Jane, a medical doctor and keen naturalist, in an easy-to-read style and format brings all these elements together to present a very personal account of living in Nepal in trying physical and emotional circumstances. But it’s not a sad tale, although there are heart-wrenching moments, nor is it full of uplifting clichés. It is a simple account of the trials and pleasures associated with living in difficult conditions with the added complexity of caring for a disabled child. Give it a go - you won't be disappointed.
Posted on fishpond
What an amazing read this was. I was sorry to come to the end but hoping Jane will write the next part of her story very soon.
The book is beautifully produced and presented, and wonderfully written, leading the reader on through the story that grips at every turn with artistic descriptive work and tantalising insights into life far from home. Jane is able to paint pictures of people and wildlife so well with her words.
The story centres on her family, husband Simon and their two children, Alexander and David. David was born with medical problems and disabilities. Jane's description of the emotions this evoked within the family from even before the doctors' diagnoses are a must read for the medical profession and anyone with friends or family living with a child with significant medical problems.
Posted on fishpond
This astonishing true story tells of a mother's heart wrenching decision to stay in her homeland of England so her ill son can receive the best of medical care... or return to her adoptive home of Nepal so he can live life free of the constraints of being labelled a fascinating medical case... this book is brimming with wonderful evocative images from Rajapur Island, Nepal. The backdrop is breathtaking and its people wonderful. Highly recommended.
“absolutely fantastic; really beautifully written. I spent the whole weekend reading it and it's given me itchy feet to go and do some useful engineering. I love all the animal descriptions, especially the birds with saucy scarlet bottoms.”
Tom Newby, development engineer
Nominated as a BOOK A DAY IN MAY by BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and Cambridgeshire Libraries 2008
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
“Books don't get more inspirational than A Glimpse of Eternal Snows.”
“reading your book has made me really nostalgic for the country even though we were only there for just over two weeks.”
Michelle Hogg, Woodbridge
“such a good book... beautifully written... sensitive. Books which one actually looks forward to going to bed to read each night seem to get more scarce, but this is certainly one of them.”
Maggie F, Elmsett, Suffolk
"I did a desert island discs today and I chose "A Glimpse of Eternal Snows" as my book; the audience thoroughly enjoyed hearing about it. Your language got a couple of room-roars of laughter and I think they understood it was my choice because it's the book that has it all."
Ali Denham, Kingsbridge
“a beautiful book, uplifting and inspiring.”
Ben Spencer, Oxford
“moving, insightful and generous hearted book”
Nick Austin, editor
“thought-provoking reading for medical students!”
Ann Allison RGN
"vividly drawn... as much about the terrain and wildlife in rural Nepal, Jane's experiences offering basic medical care to Nepalis, Simon's river projects, Alexander's engagement with new friends and the often comic recollections of setting up home, as about David's life.... beautifully depicted.. a family at peace with the choices they made to give their children the best life possible.”
With a title like that you know this book is going to be sad. Surprisingly I didn’t feel sad until the end. The story is actually very uplifting. You feel for the family having a son born with profound disabilities, but the pleasure they receive from his short life and the decision to spend that time in Nepal, is full of hope. The British medical system is deemed to be the devil in this book. The family wanted to be left alone to enjoy their child for a long as they had. I was at first like the grandmother in the story who questioned the decision to take the child from the best medical care, but when you look at the quality of life and love he had in Nepal, without medical intervention, the decision seemed very wise. The mother, who was also a doctor, was full of angst about the decision. It was incredibly moving to read about her guilt and uncertainty but eventual faith in what the family decided to do.
This book was also a wonderful travelogue of Nepal. The family did some inspiring treks with all very young children in tow. You realise that nothing is impossible. It was funny and enlightening to read her descriptions of the different Nepalese people, their caste structure and different racial tensions. She describes their simple but very impoverished lives with compassion. Their bleak medical system and very strange approach to western medicine mixed with local healing customs was both amusing and sad. Wilson-Howarth was totally shocked and frustrated by the lack of interest in preventative medicine locally. In turn, the Nepalese were often shocked at how the British family lived. They often wandered in and out of their home to check them out. The concept of privacy and ownership were very wavy. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It took the reader on both a spiritual and physical armchair journey.
jenny hogan's blog
I'm immersed in writing about mothering young children with disabilities (specifically vision impairment, but most of them have/had other conditions), and by night in bed I'm reading your book, which is fantastic, and gives me a whole extra level of insight, especially the first part about the health services. The different themes in the book come together brilliantly, David, Nepal, the health issues, the family, Simon's work, the wildlife, etc, and make it a really good read.
Reading 'A Glimpse of Eternal Snows' you can almost smell the spicy samosas and feel the dusty heat-haze of the Rajapur bazaar in the western terai of Nepal where Jane, a zoologist and GP, spent almost three years living with her husband and two (and then 3) small children. But more beautiful than the vivid descriptions of Nepal at its most primitive is the story of their second son, David. David was born with multiple medical problems and when they realise that endless medical tests and treatment are doing nothing for David's quality of life, Jane and husband Simon make the difficult but courageous decision to take David away from the doctors and return to Nepal where they can enjoy their short time with him and where he is seen simply for what he is: a beautiful, happy baby boy.
Rose posted on Fishpond 25/01/2010
When I read the media release for this book I thought “Oh no, it’s going to be a real tear jerker” and I put it aside to concentrate on other more worldly tomes. I could not have been more wrong, and it will be a very long time before I forget this book. In fact, I hope I never do.
David, Dr Jane Wilson-Howarth’s second son, was born with serious neurological disorders. Battle after battle with the medical profession, who had diagnosed David as severely retarded, forced the family to make a life changing decision. To stay in England, where David had access to the best medical services or return to Nepal, where they could make his short life one worth living.
Against huge opposition, they returned to Nepal and that’s where this story of courage, love and beauty really begins. It’s a shared story of adventure, colour and humanity. The shining thread that pulls the book together is their love for their ‘beautiful boy’ and the disparity between the embarrassment they encountered back home to the Nepalese people’s huge love and admiration for David’s differences.
It is a celebration of life, beautifully written with clearness devoid of any self-indulgent grief or blame. David’s differences are woven tenderly within the descriptions of the vibrant Nepalese culture and the family that adored him. It’s a story of triumph and a glimpse of eternal snows. I’m very glad I read it.
Deb Perry The Sunshine Coast Daily www.thedaily.com.au
Towering snow-covered Himalayan peaks on the cover attracted my interest initially, however after a couple of chapters I was struggling to get into this book, its content focused on pregnancy, rigours of childbirth and a handicapped newborn.
Not really my idea of a mountain adventure. The book features the Wilson-Howarth family. Jane, mother and trained paediatrician, is the author. Husband Simon works on infrastructure projects for a world aid agency. Their children are Alexander, an active pre-schooler, and newborn David, who with cleft palate and severe yet undiagnosed neurological problems, promises to turn their world upside down.
The author struggles as intuition and professional knowledge forces her to face David's degree of impairment and uncertain future. Medical colleagues add to the worries, viewing her newborn as "an interesting case", but not talking openly or honestly about his prognosis. Chapter two passes by and I am really not attached to this story, too many hospital scenes and worrisome kids.
The family then faces a choice. Stay and endure the best and worst of interventions modern medicine and surgery provide, or escape to a simple life in Nepal where another infrastructure project beckons, and enjoy the limited time they may have with their impaired son and brother.
In Nepal things are looking better. We are out of the hospital ward, and the children become just part of the story as they struggle to cope in a hot and very different environment. The author leads her family in small adventures as they sample a culture steeped in superstition, prejudice, poverty and cultural divides.
By chapter 10 I am really enjoying this book, there are no epic events - as is often the case with living in foreign cultures, it is the small things that make the interesting tales.
The real epic, however, is played out in David's slow physical and mental progress and the couple's tortured self doubt over their non-intervention strategy to hopefully provide him with a better quality of life.
The conclusion is in some ways surprising, beautifully expressed. It tells of how a family held true to a belief that quality of life mattered most, and how their Nepal experiences equipped them well to maintain that belief.
In postscript notes, the author says the script started as a travel narrative but developed into a story incorporating David's birth and struggles. She has blended his story into the travel narrative beautifully.
— NB this bloke reviewer thought this one gets better as it goes along —
Ken Callagher - Waikato Times (NZ)
I’ve recently got to the end of your Glimpse of Eternal Snows book, and just wanted to say a huge thanks for writing it and sharing such personal experiences. I love Nepal, and am a GP trainee, so found the mix of experiences really engaging – and it has really given me cause to reflect on how I interact with disabled children and their parents, so I’m sure it will have a positive impact on my practice for the future.
Dr Helen Ashdown
"A Glimpse of Eternal Snows evoked such strong memories of our time spent in Biratnagar when our daughters were just 18 months and three and a half years; the vignettes you painted of the everyday events in your life mirrored many of our experiences - bitter sweet, breath-taking, difficult, enjoyable, heartbreaking, the whole gambit.
Well done for writing about such a personal tragedy, but also a personal success."
Alan Beadle, water engineer
“Your book is beautifully written and it is an incredibly important story to tell.”
Dr Clare Goodhart
I have to confess an interest here, since it was me that urged Jane to write a book about her son David. When she told me his story I was so moved, and inspired, by her decision to take this sick child to Nepal, that I knew that she must share her story with other parents and other adventurers. I’ve known Jane as a travel writer for years, but this book reaches a new level, part travel, part poignant human-interest. With its twin strands describing the trials and rewards of practising medicine in a remote Nepali village, and the locals’ warm affection with little David, it’s funny, moving and inspiring in turns.
A Glimpse of Eternal Snows captivated us all and within days of
receiving the manuscript, we knew that we simply had to publish this
book. Jane writes beautifully and while her account of her son's life is
very poignant, it is not in any way self-indulgent. We simply get to
know her and her family so well, that the choices that they make, heart
rending though they may be, make perfect sense to us. In addition, Jane's huge
love of Nepal, the people, the scenery, the culture and language is spell
binding. I am the last person in the world who would consider a trekking
holiday in Nepal to be a fun thing to do, but after reading this book, I
was ready to pack my bags and head for the airport.
It is a rare experience in publishing, to begin a manuscript and to be
so captivated by it that you know that you simply have to have it. I had
that experience, and so did everyone at Murdoch Books and we are truly
thrilled and delighted to have this wonderful book on our Pier 9 list for 2007.
Juliet Rogers CEO Murdoch books
a commanding story about life in Nepal. It considers difficult problems surrounding disability and the ethics of who should be treated - or not. It contrasts Western views of imperfection and death with more tolerant, fatalistic views in Nepal. Valuable to those caring for disabled children, health professionals can learn from her experiences and enjoy a good read.
Journal of the British Global & Travel Health Association
I enjoyed reading about the attitudes towards children and babies in Nepal, which is often so different to that in the UK. I found Jane's perspective on the medical system in the UK interesting to read about too. Above all it gave me an insight into motherhood, and what it means to care for a child.
an acclaimed memoir
This book has been on sale in Australia and New Zealand since 2007. It is available from bookshops and on line.
A few copies of this Australian edition of Glimpse arrived in the UK in June 2008.
A new northern hemisphere edition (including in electronic formats) launched in the UK October 2012 by Bradt Travel Guides, and in the US in 2013 through Globe Pequot, making Glimpse available in the US and Canada for the first time.
Good bookshops including Toppings, Foyles, Blackwells and Waterstones should stock it. A new edition was launched in March 2015 by the Delhi-based publisher Speaking Tiger.
Or check Amazon.com| www.blackwell.co.uk | www.dymocks.com.au | www.fishpond.co.uk
Alternatively support our threatened public libraries (as well as the author) by borrowing a copy. I was pleased to find out that nearly three and a half thousand people in Britain have borrowed Glimpse in the last eighteen months, and for each loan I receive the princely sum of 6.25 pence. I'm delighted to learn so many people have met David in this way.