Corin Redgrave and Kika Markham shared a happy marriage, a love of acting and like many of the Redgrave acting dynasty, a passion for left-wing politics and activism. Much of this came to an abrupt halt when Corin sustained a serious heart attack in 2005 resulting in an anoxic brain injury. This event had a devastating impact on their lives and this book details their experience from Kika's perspective.

This book is passionately written and at times brutally honest. It contains Kika’s personal narrative and reflections of her marriage to Corin, the politics and passions they shared all beautifully interwoven with the playwright and thespian worlds in which both the Markham and Redgrave families inhabited. Diary entries from both Kika and Corin’s journals along with anecdotes and reflections by family members, close friends and colleagues, all serve to create a temporal and rich tapestry in which the author’s own narrative exists.

Kika wrote the book in the hopes it will help others similarly affected and to provide a better understanding of the impact of brain injury more broadly. The book achieves this and will appeal to patients and families alike as well as those professionals supporting them. It provides insight into the difficulties faced following brain injury and reminds people they are not alone. For professionals supporting them it demonstrates the ongoing difficulties and impact upon individuals and their families when people return home. In both cases this book describes the reality of brain injury, the tenacity of the human spirit, and the importance of never giving up.

The first part of the book provides context – exploring who they both were, their passions, their politics, their families, and the plays and playwrights with whom they worked. As part one closes we begin to learn about Corin’s deteriorating health. Part two opens in 2005 with Corin’s collapse and their struggle to understand what happened and how to find appropriate rehabilitation services. In the early stages of recovery Corin exhibits many of the typical symptoms frequently observed following acquired brain injury including agitation, anger, confusion, low mood, and disorientation. However it is his lack of insight, disinhibited behaviour and profound memory problems that cause them both the most anguish. Kika shares the depths of her despair and describes many feelings common to the partner of a brain injury survivor – frustration, anger, isolation, embarrassment, familial pressure, and asking who the stranger is that now inhabits their home? In coming to terms with the depth of his profound memory problems Kika asks the reader, “For what use are memories if they only exist for one person?” This second part of the book primarily contains diary entries during that time. There is little reflective narrative of what is clearly a deeply dark period – this in no way detracts from the great addition to the brain injury literature that this book makes, but it did make me wonder if at the time of writing this was still too painful to reflect upon in detail.

Despite his memory problems Corin does eventually return to work in a limited fashion. As a reader this was somewhat surprising. It is of course important to remember that improvements can be made, even where there is profound and apparently devastating injury. As a result this book is also a source of hope and inspiration for others similarly affected and those clinicians supporting them. Kika and Corin’s relationship is however changed forevermore  and their parallel heightened states of anxiety emanate palpably through the pages of the book – Kika’s grief, guilt and resentment; Corin’s anger, confusion, and suspicion. 

Whilst books of this nature are serious and deep there is an almost laugh-out loud moment when Kika implements her strategy to deal with one of Corin’s more disinhibited behaviours – I found myself wanting to cheer her when it worked!

Despite all this the couple ultimately  find a way to ‘be together’, living in the moment and enjoying driving and the theatre – activities that for those moments in time allow them once again to be equals.

As the book drew to a close I was on a long train journey from Scotland to York. I knew I was soon to read of Corin’s passing and Kika’s grief. Lunchtime for me had long passed and I was hungry. However I could not interrupt my reading of their story to participate in something so self-centred as lunch after the journey I had been on with them both. Kika and Corin had drawn me into their world and it would have felt deeply disrespectful. As I turned the final pages and closed the book, I looked out of the carriage window. The sea was angry and the rain beat down. It seemed a fitting homage to a remarkable man and Kika, his wife, companion and champion. It is with Corin’s tribute to her that I end this review:

“To all in the world who listen and like to hear the truth – even if it is uncomfortable and painful – I am Corin…married to Kika…Redgrave. And that is my only claim to happiness.  My dear, absolutely beautiful wife.  Without her…I would have nothing.  With her…I have…everything!!!”

                                           Reviewed by Dr Ava Easton, the Encephalitis Society

Markham, Kika (2014).  Our Time of Day: My Life with Corin Redgrave. London.  Oberon Books., 2014. 206pp. £16.99 (hardcover) ISBN 978-1783191000

We have a limited amount of signed copies available to purchase at a special discount price from our online shop.