By Anne Davis Basting . Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press , Baltimore . 2009 . ISBN 9780801892493 ,. 200 pages plus index ., RRP $43.95

Reviewed by Susan Koch

La Trobe University/Alfred Hospital Clinical School, Victoria

Overall, this book provides the reader with an overview of what it means to have memory loss and whether or not it is the catastrophe that society depicts. This is done through anecdotal stories, the use of literature and a review through the ages of how memory came about and its uses. The author then considers possible interventions that can be applied to assist those living with dementia and older people. In the Australian context many of the interventions cited are already incorporated in programs available to those living with dementia and their carers (both formal and informal).

The author's critique of mainstream media portrayals of dementia and its impact is interesting. While I do not always agree with her reflections, I think that others would enjoy reading them. I was specifically interested in the author's reflections of the history of memory and its cultural origins, this I think adds a unique aspect of the book for a larger audience. The descriptions of how media portrays dementia and/or memory loss are interesting and assist one to reflect on their own personal values. I, for example had never considered the film Finding Nemo was anything other than an animated adventure story about a fish. I will have to watch again!

The book provides a description of interventions of which the author has knowledge, and in some instances been the provider. The major limitation of the book is that it only describes the intervention from an American context. I would therefore contend it would be of limited interest to the Australian context.

The author is obviously well experienced the arts and their use with people living with dementia. A positive aspect of the book is its non-academic approach; this makes it more engaging to the reader. I can see this book being read my non-academics, probably more by clinicians and carers (both formal and informal).

The organisation of the book is excellent. It would be easy for a reader to ‘pick and choose’ which sections they were most interested in reading.