At the centre of Have the men had enough?, a relentlessly monocentric work, is Grandma, who suffers from senile dementia. In the moderate stage of the illness she still remembers the names and faces of those close to her, and can look after herself physically. But the degeneration that is diagnosed as inevitable gradually drains away her personality and her surviving levels of competence. In an intermediate phase her memory has virtually gone: ‘She does not know if she has eaten recently or what she ate. She could not recognise a comb, a brush, a jug. She cannot put her shoes on or a cardigan.’ She can still walk and talk, and is continent. But the doctor can affirm that she will lose all these capacities. As his prognostications are proved correct, Margaret Forster charts the efforts of Grandma’s family to cope with their growing problem.
Have the men had enough? seems to provide a complete if depressing answer to such questions, but its comprehensiveness depends on the sympathy-shrivelling datum that the family are sufficiently well-heeled to be able to choose from the full spectrum of available possibilities, private as well as public. Charlie thinks nothing of shelling out £20,000 a year on his mother. Many a reader would envy his plight.