Patient: The True Story of a Rare Illness

ISBN: 0802135838
ISBN 13: 9780802135834
By: Ben Watt

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About this book

In the summer of 1992, on the eve of an American tour, Ben Watt, one half of the Billboard-topping pop duo Everything But The Girl, was taken to a London hospital complaining of chest pain. He didn’t leave for two and a half months. Watt had developed a rare life-threatening disease that initially baffled doctors. By the time he was allowed home, his ravaged body was forty-six pounds lighter and he was missing most of his small intestine. Watt injects pathos and humor into his medical nightmare, writing about his childhood, reflecting on his family and on his shared life with band member and partner Tracey Thorn. The result is a provocative and affecting memoir about life, illness, and survival.

Reader's Thoughts


I read this because I'm a huge EBTG fan. I remember seeing Ben wasting away on album covers. The story was told with unflinching honesty, dry English wit and ultimately hope.


Though I had to pause reading it because of the descriptions of what he had to face getting treated for his disease - this was a wonderfully written book. It was very honest and vulnerable and lovely. I'm a big EBTG fan, which was the initial intrigue, but am now a fan of him as a person who faced death, faced himself, and faced the world in this heartwrenching story. Some nice dry English humour as well. ;)


I noticed that some reviewers on this site found this book boring. Boy, that was NOT my reaction. I found Watt's writing style to be delightful and there were passages that moved me and passages that made me laugh out loud. This book succeeds on so many levels. It's a very accurate description of what it feels like to be seriously ill in a hospital; it's also a wonderful memoir about life in England in the 1980s and early 1990s. (Postscript: an interview with Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn from 2010.)


This was a heart-wrenching, yet wonderful read. Watt pulls no punches on the emotions he experienced while enduring his nightmare.


Admittedly, a book about an obscure 80's British pop star's journey through an extremely rare and nearly fatal encounter with an extremely rare immune system disorder might be a bit of a hard sell for some but this is truly an amazing and - yes - inspiring book. Told with a songwriter's ear for detail and an almost unbelievable honest and wit, considering the circumstances he was facing, this is a riveting account of what it is like to go from the "normal" world where one is in control to "patient" world where one surrenders control, not to mention dignity. Yet in the end it is the dignity of a survivor that carries this book. An unlikely a page turner as ever was but none the less, highly recommended.

Jen Squire

It didn't take long to read this, and (after a reasonable interval) I'll be reading his memoir Romany and Tom.I was concerned about a singer I liked in the 80s/90s writing a book - I've written about why that was unnecessary and what I loved about this book.

Vicky Allen

I have read this book so many times since the day I bought it. It was the book I was reading when my grandad died, it was the book I was reading in the midst of a prolonged period of illness, it is the book I return to when I need to find a way of stilling myself and reminding myself who I am and where I am. It's beautifully written, in spare but evocative language that captures the rawness and strange detachment of serious illness. I love this book, both for what it is and for what it has come to mean to me.

Saya Hashimoto

Blow by blow account of a rare illness, sounds boring, isn't.

Becky Rose

Borrowed from Laura. This book reminded me a lot of when I was sick and had emergency surgery several years ago - the descriptions of his mindspace were very accurate and familiar to my own experience and took me back to that time in a way that was both unpleasant (who wants to think about being sick and scared) and reassuring (oh yeah, that sucked, but now I'm so healthy, and wow, someone else felt the same way in similar but way, way worse situation).


An otherwise healthy young man suddenly develops an autoimmune disease that results in him losing much of his large intestine, with a long hospital stay, and huge changes in his life. He's British, and tells his story in a clear, understated way. He does a great job of conveying how disconcerting it is to be suddenly no longer able bodied. He's half of the British pop duo Everything but the Girl. I listened to some of their songs on the web, which weren't to my taste, but I liked his book.

D. B.

A gut-wrenching first-person account of a gut-wrenching disease that has Ben Watt's (the weirder-looking half of Brit pop duo Everything But The Girl) guts literally rotting away from the inside out. Watt, while no literary artiste, is close enuf to his own dilemma to analyze it, and yet detached sufficiently to keep his life-and-near-death struggle from descending into sappy sentimentality.Stay healthy!


I registered a book at!


This is a heart warming story about a quite horrible, life threatening illness and about the hospital life that follows. This is not a story for the squeamish.

Julie Barrett

Eh, it was ok. I got this memoir from the library primarily because it is by Ben Watt, who is part of the duo called Everything But the Girl. Dang, I love their songwriting. I'm currently on a memoir kick and this seemed like an interesting premise; sort of like a House episode on tv. Why is Ben having these symptoms? What could it be? etc.Turns out that reading about a person's illness is pretty dang boring - not like a tv show at all. The part that held the most fascination for me was reading about the UK medical system. Wow, their hospitals sound like total dumps compared to American ones! This memoir takes place in 1992 but the hospital sounds like it is out of the 1930s. I guess American 1930s. Apparently normal for Britain.None of the patients have private or even semi-private rooms. It's a big ward with lots of beds. The patients have to go down the hallway to use the bathroom - like you are at a youth hostel or second rate b&b. Also, no tvs but a tv common room. It seems to take forever to get tests done or to see specialists. And the nurses live in dorms nearby? Or something like that. It wasn't clear in the book. And the food is your typical old fashioned British food - very yucky & not particularly healthy.The main thing I got out of this memoir was an appreciation for how clean & modern our American hospitals are. And I've had several hospital stays & in the early 80s I worked as a candy striper at the public hospital my dad worked at. Plus visiting friends & relatives at various hospitals over the years. Even the dumpiest hospital I've been in has had tvs & bathrooms in the patient rooms. I hope I never need to go to the hospital in the UK.

Gary Grey

A fantastic memoir. An insightful and moving account of the experience of illness. Life-affirming and beautifully written.

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