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Colin Ludlow’s experience of hospitals had once been confined to the births of his children, with only the second-hand unease of his mother’s suspicion that “they” existed to “cut you up”. When Ludlow’s wife undergoes bowel surgery to remove a tumour, it is a “lost innocence”. When it is feared a fistula may have developed, the grim new experiences of hospital procedures are paralleled by the discovery of new words. An “unnatural passage” in the body—the fistula—represents a new visceral rite of passage which the family must confront. Recounting and reflecting on his own illness and subsequent complications, Ludlow goes on to become a hospital “veteran”, with MRSA as his medal. The upheaval resulting from the suspected fistula concludes with the single-sentence paragraph, like a parent checking under his child’s bed: “There is no fistula”. On another occasion, however, there is. In Shadows in Wonderland, the patients are more likely than their ailments to become “a mere dream or faceless shadow”.
“Wonderland” is the hospital: its nature is mutable, depending on viewpoint. Ludlow’s narrative, he acknowledges, is fragmentary, but this allows a closer representation of his experience as a …
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