Vital Signs, Hardback Book
5 out of 5 (1 rating)


"Vital Signs" is a novel that takes us deep inside a marriage in crisis, teasing out the unspoken rules that run - or ruin - love relationships.

So much is taken for granted in a long marriage, so much is relied upon, so much is resented, so much is never spoken.

But when Anna, Mike's beautiful and self-possessed wife, begins to mangle her sentences as a result of a brain aneurysm that could kill her at any moment, it's as if Mike has woken from a long dream in which he was only thinking about himself. Or is he still only thinking about himself? In his panic to show his wife that she has been his entire universe, will he finally confess all the ways in which he rebelled against her power over him, the way he betrayed her?

Incoherent with guilt, he uses his talent as a graphic artist to draw his way closer to his wife, trying to communicate with her, and himself too, through signs and symbols.

Mike is deeply flawed, hovering on the knife-edge of a confession, selfishly looking to the woman he loves for absolution even as she faces the possibility of her own death. And through this portrait of a marriage in crisis, Tessa McWatt leads us deftly and deeply into the workings of a relationship that blooms and withers and reblooms over time, and into the lies and the truths necessary to sustain it.


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Not everyone seems to agree with me (!) but I reckon this is a great piece of writing.The people and their relationships seemed very real to me (but I have no idea about the realism of the medical condition featured). The story is all about how the stress of a major medical crisis is making one (or both) of the marriage partners appraise their marriage's history and their role in its possible downfall. McWatt has brilliantly captured the uncertainty that the husband might have in his degree of commitment to his wife in that situation. My only issue with the book is the role of illustrative material. Not that it was bad, not that it wasn't relevant, its just that I feel I left picture books behind a few years ago :-)I'm looking for more McWatt but my local libraries have none! Abebooks second-hand selection, here I come.

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