A new graphic novel has been published where the lead character, Myriam, has entered the world of Charles Bonnet syndrome.  

Set in suburban England, it focuses on an elderly couple: vision-impaired Myriam and her grumpy husband, Fred. The story follows Myriam’s journey – an interweaving of some strange happenings at the next door neighbour’s house as well as her own unfolding CBS. All this occurs while Myriam is trying to get on with her routine lifestyle. We follow Myriam as these three narratives coalesce into a fascinating whole. 

A Thousand Coloured Castles captures the various shades of the CBS experience: the vividness and bizarre nature of the imagery encountered, the often isolating experience for the person living with the syndrome, how loved ones can react to the unfamiliar, and where the difference between truth and fiction can become blurred.

The real beauty of this offering from Gareth Brookes is that it cuts through the standard clinical jargon that most commentaries on CBS are based. With a simple story-telling format, Brookes’ work is easily accessible to all age groups. This makes it a very useful medium to introduce someone to CBS – especially a grand child who has a grand-parent (or other older relative) who may be living with the condition. Brookes achieves this through an engaging child-like pictorial form, rendered in rich crayon.

 

To purchase (or learn more about) the book, follow the below link to the publisher, Myriad Editions.  

 http://www.myriadeditions.com/books/a-thousand-coloured-castles/

 

The American and Canadian edition is available through Penn State University Press:

https://www.psupress.org/books/titles/978-0-271-07927-1.html

 

Brookes broaches hallucinations, illusions and jumping to conclusions  (A review by Jennifer Muirden)

Six years ago, I was approached by the Charles Bonnet Syndrome Foundation to create some images for their website to accurately depict the visual hallucinations experienced by people who have impaired vision but are otherwise mentally intact. It was a difficult challenge for me since I have never experienced such phantom visions. However, more importantly, I had no real reference point due to a scarcity of visual media illustrating this much overlooked and misunderstood medical condition. It is for this reason I was delighted to read A Thousand Coloured Castles by Gareth Brookes (not to be confused with the American singer and songwriter Garth Brooks), published by Myriad Editions. 

A Thousand Coloured Castles is worthy of recognition since it combines wit and a multimodal approach to effectively illustrate the phantom images that a person with the enigmatic neurological condition of Charles Bonnet syndrome may expect to see, but also manages to draw attention to the loneliness and isolation that many elderly people face. 

Renowned neurologist Oliver Sacks notably wrote the acclaimed bestseller Hallucinations back in 2012 based on anecdotal descriptions of the intricate apparitions experienced by those of his patients afflicted with Charles Bonnet syndrome and also from his own experience. While his prose narrative undoubtedly educated and intrigued a wide audience, it is the highly imaginative visual component of Brookes' book that for me enhances the narration with more power and economy ultimately delivering a more memorable and accessible message. 

An added surprise for me was a feeling of unsettling anxious anticipation that gripped me while the story about Myriam and her rapidly declining vision unfolds and becomes very much a suspense thriller. It is the subtle alchemy of speech bubbles and wax crayon pictures cleverly created by Brookes which educates and engages its audience with the intention of fostering greater understanding, discourse, empathy and a reduction in anxiety for both Charles Bonnet syndrome sufferers, and their loved ones. In this fashion, it may help people gain acceptance of this legitimate condition and learn to live with less fear or automatically assume they are losing their mind.

There’s one thing for certain A Thousand Coloured Castles will go a long way in establishing the comic book format as a viable form of educational literature dealing with a serious and substantial issue rather than standard comic books which are so often concerned with superheroes, science fiction, fantasy or lightweight subject matter.