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Halfway to Venus (The Week)


Sarah Anderson had what was perhaps the epitome of the “stiff-upper-lip” childhood, says Cassandra Jardine in The Daily Telegraph. The owner of London’s Travel Bookshop and her siblings saw their parents for just half an hour a day, and were otherwise brought up by nannies who frowned on any show of emotion. Aged nine, the young Sarah developed a rare cancer in her arm. Eventually, doctors advised amputation. Her mother signalled the news by taking her alone into the drawing room. And making a chopping motion with her right hand. After the operation, her missing arm was rarely even mentioned. She was expected to cope, uncomplainingly, and she did – but it hasn’t been easy. “It’s much more traumatic than losing a leg,” she says. “Legs area useful for getting about but arms are our link with the world. We use them to touch, hug, gesticulate.” Yet despite the difficulties she has faced (described in a new book, Halfway to Venus), Anderson, now 60, doesn’t entirely regret the attitudes that prevailed when she was ten. “I’m terribly glad I didn’t lose my arm in these politically correct times,” she says. “I hate terms like ‘upper-limb amputee’, rather than ‘one-armed’, and I dislike compensation culture. It’s better to get on with things.”