Advantages very readable, honest and moving
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I have always been a fan of Top Gear - not because in any way I have a love or fascination with cars and engines - but because I enjoy the humour and banter between the three presenters. They all seem like good 'blokey' blokes who enjoy a laugh. I, like most of the country, was incredibly shocked to hear of Richard Hammond's horrific accident while driving a jet car, which occurred on 20th September 2006. When I saw that he had written a book about what happened and his road to recovery, I knew I was going to have to read it.The first thing to say is that although you might find the book in the autobiography section of any good book shop, that is not really what it is. There are a couple of chapters which talk about his childhood and how he got the job on Top Gear but much of his thirty six years or so is skimmed over because that is not the intention of the book.
No, this book tells the remarkable story of what happened in the airfield that day and Richard's remarkable road to recovery. I think that when most people saw the crash shown on TV they could hardly think he would survive let alone recover so well. That is what makes this book such a moving and involving read.One of the things you really gain a sense of from the book is how close knit Richard Hammond's family is. His wife Mindy played such a key role in nursing her husband, his two daughters were incredibly brave when 'Daddy was poorly' and his parents, brothers and their families formed a very tight support unit and his appreciation of all this comes through in the book. Also you appreciate the closeness of the Top Gear team and you can see that the cameraderie displayed on the programme is absolutely genuine and not just for the cameras.
Probably about a quarter of the book is written about the events of the day of the accident itself. Richard remembers everything up to the crash incredibly clearly and so the events are very detailed. Although I was fascinated by his recall, some of it was a bit more technical for me, and I did find myself having to concentrate quite a bit through this.I actually found myself thinking that although this was a fascinating book I really rather wished that his wife had written a book as well because I was really interested to know what it all felt like for her. I couldn't believe it then when, immediately after the chapters dealing with the crash, Mindy, his wife, took over the writing. From then on she is the one who writes about everything that happened in the hospital in those early days, which obviously makes sense, as Richard has little recall of those days. It was at that point that I really became absorbed in the book and read about 100 pages all in one go!
As a wife and a mother, I really empathised with everything she had to go through from the initial phone calls, the fear that he might die, the glimmers of hope gained from every small step, but most of all facing the realisation that her husband may no longer be the same man she married. She talks very honestly about how sometimes Richard hardly knew her, his mood swings, and his short term memory loss which meant that sometimes he would initiate the same conversation many many times with no recollection that he had already asked the same thing. She also talks about having to be strong and practical and also incredibly strong for the sake of their daughters. I found reading her chapters so very moving and there were many times that I could feel my tears welling up as I was reading.To the outside world it appeared that Richard Hammond did make an amazingly speedy recovery but this book demonstrates that it was not an easy road at all. There were many setbacks in gaining his memory and his confidence. He became very withdrawn and nervous of strangers which is such a contrast to the man you see on the TV. There were also some very touching moments when he rediscovers his boyhood love for building things out of Lego. This almost became an obsession for him but also aided his brain in its recovery.
There is also a great deal of humility in the way this book is written. He often says that he couldn't understand all the fuss over 'that little bloke who drives cars on the telly!'. It does show how much they appreciated all the acts of kindness and messages of goodwill shown to them by the general public as well as their family, friends and the Top Gear team.It's not a perfectly written book by any means but it is a remarkable story. It's wonderful love story between him and his wife, and it's also a testimony to all the teams of surgeons, nurses, doctors, air ambulance staff who helped him on the road to recovery and these are all acknowledged at the back of the book. It is written for their daughters Izzy and Willow and also:
'anyone wh has suffered a brain injury in any form, with best wishes and hope for the future'Richard Hammond knows that he is one of the lucky ones which is why I think the above dedication is very poignant.
I definitely do recommend reading this book whether you are a fan of Richard hammond or not. It provides a very real insight into a very brave but ordinary family whose lives were all very suddenly turned upside now. And the scary thing is, it could be anyone's story!
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Pages: 344, Edition: 1st Edition 1st Printing, Hardcover, Weidenfeld & Nicolson
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Richard Hammond is one of our most in-demand and best-loved television presenters. On September 20, 2006, he suffered a serious brain injury...
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