> Skip to content
Play sample
  • Published: 11 June 2024
  • ISBN: 9781529920796
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $24.99


A Life in Pieces

For readers of Atul Gawande's Being Mortal and Henry Marsh's Do No Harm, an unforgettably powerful and heartbreaking book about how to live

A darkly comic and moving reflection on what it means to be human in a world where nothing is certain, from the award-winning Oxford professor

We all have trapdoors in our lives. Sometimes we jump off just in time ... But sometimes we are unlucky. My own trapdoor was hidden in the consulting room of an Oxford neurologist.

When the trapdoor opened for Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, he plummeted into a world of MRI scans, a disobedient body and the crushing unpredictability of a multiple sclerosis diagnosis. But, like Alice tumbling into Wonderland, his fall did something else. It took him deep into his own mind: his hopes, his fears, his loves and losses, and the books that would sustain, inform and nourish him as his life began to transform in ways he could never have imagined.

From Kafka to Barbellion, this is a literary map of the journey from the kingdom of the well to the land of the sick, and forwards into a hopeful future. It's an ode to great writing, to storytelling, to science and to the power of the imagination.

'A pitch-perfect memoir: stylish, erudite, touchingly honest and darkly funny' Jacqueline Wilson

  • Published: 11 June 2024
  • ISBN: 9781529920796
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 272
  • RRP: $24.99

Other books in the series

About the author

Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka (1883–1924) was born into a Jewish family in Prague. In 1906 he received a doctorate in jurisprudence, and for many years he worked a tedious job as a civil service lawyer investigating claims at the State Worker's Accident Insurance Institute. He never married, and published only a few slim volumes of stories during his lifetime. Meditation, a collection of sketches, appeared in 1912; The Stoker: A Fragment in 1913; Metamorphosis in 1915; The Judgement in 1916; In the Penal Colony in 1919; and A Country Doctor in 1920. The great novels were not published until after his death from tuberculosis: America, The Trial and The Castle.

Also by Franz Kafka

See all

Praise for Metamorphosis

A beautiful and devastating portrayal of a life-changing diagnosis... It is what the best writing should be: a book that will stay with you for life.

Natalie Haynes, author of A Thousand Ships

A pitch-perfect memoir: stylish, erudite, touchingly honest and darkly funny.

Jacqueline Wilson, author of The Story of Tracy Beaker

Metamorphosis is the best book I have read about multiple sclerosis, and that is because it is about so much more... It is simply a beautiful piece of writing.

The Times

An outstanding feat of bravery and brio... A buoyantly written, piercingly perceptive book.

Sunday Times

A brilliant account of one man's tilted world following a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.


For all its grim subject the book is an unexpected delight.

Literary Review

Level-headed and informative... What Douglas-Fairhurst gives us isn't just the story of an illness but a story about the importance of stories.


Heartening and unexpectedly gripping... An immensely powerful book... It persuasively builds the case for the ability of stories to offer hope and solace; to help us become ourselves, over and over, even in extremis.


Douglas-Fairhurst has written a memoir that is not miserable. It's funny and raw... Magical: pages speed by, fuelled by the author's formidable intellect.

Financial Times, *Book of the Week*

Written by an entertaining storyteller and offers a rare insight into a situation that few people will have to face, but that it does us good to contemplate.

Mail on Sunday

While this book deals with distress, physical pain and uncertainty, its wry humour and lightness of touch make it anything but a misery memoir... Superb.

Times Literary Supplement

A richly textured and syncopated book, alternately erudite and irreverent.

London Review of Books

A complex, tender meditation on art, family and resistance.


Metamorphosis is told in such blackly comic style that you can't help chuckling.

Good Housekeeping

The writing is all elegance and wit.

The Times, *2023's Top 50 Non-Fiction Books*

An account of living with multiple sclerosis that is both deeply literary and painfully honest as it charts his journey into ill health.

Financial Times, *Summer Reads of 2023*

Discover more

14 of the best literary insults perfect for a quick comeback

Some of the biggest burns from classic literature.