Most of us, at some point in our lives, have read books or seen films about the life of Joseph Carey Merrick, commonly known as the 'Elephant Man.' In most, Joseph is portrayed as an object of ridicule, living his early years on display in sideshows & the latter part of his life shrouded from society. Now, thanks to the authors in-depth research, we can finally learn what life was really like for a man who suffered from a terrible medical affliction but made the most of his situation & took pleasure in the smallest of kindnesses.
Joanne Vigor Mungovin provides extensive detail into the Merrick family history, plotting homes, births, deaths & financial circumstance, helping us to better understand how it was that Joseph spent time in a workhouse, travelling freak show & finally as a permanent resident at the London Hospital. We are also treated to a history lesson about Leicester, Joseph's hometown, and vibrant details of how it thrived in the late 19th century.
There are tender moments in this sympathetically written biography too, as the author has included personal memoirs from those who met and knew 'The Elephant Man'. We also learn that Joseph was able to get respite in the countryside from time to time & was an educated man with a passion for books, not so unlike you and I after all. One sentence, from the authors personal note, says it all 'Whatever illness Joseph did suffer from, it should not define him as a human being.'