My rating: 4 of 5 stars
The first two thirds of this book were the author using the reader as a therapist and just letting out one long blast of hatred towards her family for being so appalling. Or at least that’s the way she tells it. There was absolutely nothing to do with prosopagnosia even vaguely hinted at.
The last third of the book was about prosopagnosia. Sellers sets herself up as an expert and authority on this neurological disorder that she and I share. Having read Prosopagnosia, Face Blindness Explained. Prosopagnosia Types, Tests, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Research and Face Recognition all covered, I don’t share her confidence. The author says she can’t recognise people often, but then reading carefully it seems she can recognise people very often but not reliably, which is what I have.
I’ve had lunch with someone I see at least three times a week and thought I recognised them later in the supermarket but wasn’t sure. However I recognised their handbag (I gave it to her) so that was ok. Facial recognition is by a part of the brain that is discrete, that is all other kinds of recognition are not handled by that area.
For the few people I have met who know they are face blind to some degree, there are various other problems, some of which are to do with interpreting facial expressions which look as though the person has Aspergers, but in fact they don’t. Not all of the things we share are negative, all of us are somewhat intellectual and most of us are artistic as well. This leads me to believe that mild prosopagnosia may just be yet another neurotype, a different kind of wiring, personality really, that is less common that the average one, but not rare, one that people are generally unaware of and just say, “I’m never any good at remembering faces”.
One thing that changed for me was that I decided to be open, to ‘come out’ as it were and tell everyone, so that people would stop thinking I was sometimeish or cutting style on them by not speaking to them. However, half the people laugh and say they don’t believe it and the other half look at me like I’m mad and they don’t believe it either. The only people who do believe it are people who know me well and are forever prodding me when they see someone I know and if I don’t recognise them will tell me their name first. So all I’m doing by telling people I’m face blind is making myself look even more eccentric. What to do?
The book wasn’t a hard read and it was well-written but really reading about other people’s dysfunctional families can be extremely boring. Tolstoy’s opening lines of Anna Karenina, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” might well be true, but it doesn’t make them interesting. The book started off as a 2, degenerated rapidly to a 1 and redeemed itself ending up on a good, golden, solid five!