Particular Books, £16.99 Order at a discount from the Independent Online Shop

The Yellow World, By Albert Espinosa, trans. James Womack

Far more helpful than mere 'self help', this memoir of survival teaches true zest for life

Albert Espinosa didn't want to write a book about the ten years he spent fighting cancer between the ages of 14 and 24, during which time he lost a leg, a lung and a chunk of his liver. He wanted to write instead about the profound lessons in how to live he learned from cancer.

At 24 he was given the all-clear and sprung out into the world. But his formative years spent nose up against the grindstone of gruelling treatment, surrounded by his fellow "Eggheads" (the affectionate nickname for young cancer patients) so shaped him that he couldn't simply "move on". " I was born from cancer", he writes.

Now in his late thirties, an engineer and successful screenwriter, he has dug deep into his experiences. Drawing on his relationships with fellow-patients, doctors, hospital staff and visitors, Espinosa made 23 "discoveries" about how to live fully, whatever the circumstances. He shares them in a unique, uncategorisable, funny, energetic rush of a book, which isn't self-help but is very helpful.

"The yellow world", writes Espinosa, "is the name I've given to a way of living … of nourishing yourself with the lessons that you learn from good moments as well as bad ones." This world is made up of those parts of life that have a brilliant, sun-rich life-force about them, even the most difficult experiences.

We need to learn how to lose things, he says, and see our losses in new ways. He describes how even the most painful experiences have beauty hidden within them. In the early dawn of the day Espinosa had his leg amputated, he asked a nurse to dance. They danced around the ward toCuban music. This is not shallow positive thinking; it's much more direct. Espinosa suggests we feel the sadness and loss, mourn, but that this will make space for deepening insight.

He is full of ideas. Bring contrasting things together, he says, and we'll make something new: we should put swimming pools in hospitals, bowling alleys in airports, and libraries of books in woods. Espinosa is now advising doctors on how to interact with young cancer patients. If I become ill again, I definitely want to be on the Espinosa ward. The author is a combination of a Zen hero at ease with the paradoxes of life, and a hyperactive adolescent fizzing with innocent exuberance.

Espinosa reminds us that life-threatening illness isn't just physical; it's emotional, psychological and spiritual. It was thrilling for me, a fellow cancer survivor, to read a tale of how someone became wholly themselves through their experiences of cancer. Espinosa created himself and surfaced with his scars proudly on display. This has given him confidence, strength and a unique perspective on life. Any reader who wants to know how to live more fully and accept their vulnerability as a mortal human being will find The Yellow World a subtle, colourful and stirring joy; a book that shines with comedy and grace.

Rebecca Loncraine is the author of 'The Real Wizard of Oz' (Gotham); she is writing a book about coping with cancer through learning to be a pilot

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living