Happy ending for coma woman's forgotten novel


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The Independent Online

A woman who spent three months in a coma with a crippling brain illness is celebrating the publication of the debut novel she had completely forgotten that she was writing.

Alexandra Singer, 29, suffered long-term memory loss after a near-fatal attack of cerebral lupus in 2008 and had no idea she had begun work on a book.

She was told by doctors she might never walk again and spent months fighting paralysis in hospital by breathing through a tracheotomy tube.

While in hospital, her brother, Joshua, found the notes to the novel, Tea at the Grand Tazi, while clearing out her London flat.

Ms Singer, from Cheadle, Greater Manchester, then taught herself to write again as she returned to the book.

She said: "When I woke from the coma I was in and out of consciousness for months. I suffered long-term memory loss. I had a memory of writing, but I thought I was dreaming. Then my brother brought me this draft with 10,000 words in disjointed notes.

"It was like reading someone else's words. I'd had the idea for the book before the illness but was too busy training as a lawyer to write it.

"The prospect of finishing it inspired me to relearn how to write."

Completing the novel, about a young expat, Maia, who travels to Morocco and succumbs to the city's seedy underbelly, proved tortuous. Ms Singer said: "The physical act of writing was very painful because my hands wouldn't do what I wanted them to do.

"The doctors thought I would be brain-damaged and for six months I was paralysed and couldn't speak.

"I can't write on a laptop, I like to write with a pen. Gradually it became more natural."

The former trainee corporate lawyer is now studying for a Master's degree in healthcare law and ethics at the University of Manchester's School of Law.

Ms Singer is continuing to undergo physiotherapy in the hope of walking again. She still requires a wheelchair whilst neurosurgeons try and diagnose the spasticity in her legs.

Her book is published by Legend Press, whose stable includes best-selling authors such as Bonnie Greer. She already has plans for a second novel.