Milkshakes and Morphine by Genevieve Fox review – a moment of revelation

A cancer memoir with a difference, this book’s originality comes not in its account of experiencing the disease but its delving into the past

Cancer memoirs are such a fixture of our bookshops these days that it’s jolting to realise just how recent an innovation they are. The genre came into being in the late 1990s, when journalists Ruth Picardie and John Diamond chronicled their experience of the disease in national newspapers; two decades later, on the other side of the rubicon, it’s hard to recall, or comprehend, the controversy this caused. Debate raged over the responsibility of their public airing of the details of an illness that had, to date, been shrouded in fear and shame: the writers were lauded as brave by some and accused of “emotional pornography” by others, but indifference wasn’t an option.

Fast forward to 2018, and the legacy of those accounts is clear: cancer’s ...