Diving into Glass

By Caro Llewellyn Penguin Random House

Caro Llewellyn was living her dream life in her adopted home of New York, directing an international literary festival. Then one day, running in Central Park, she lost all sensation in her legs. Two days later she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

Caro was no stranger to tragedy. Her father Richard contracted polio at the age of twenty and spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair. Dignified, undaunted and ingenious, he was determined to make every day count, not least seducing his nurse while still confined to an iron lung, then marrying her.

But when Caro was herself blindsided by illness, cut loose from everything she depended on, she couldn’t summon any of the grace and courage she’d witnessed growing up. She was furious, toxic, humiliated. Only by looking back at her father’s extraordinary example was she able to rediscover her own grit and find a way forward, rebuilding her life shard by shard.

An emotionally brutal memoir of family, vulnerability and purpose, Diving into Glass is a searing, often funny portrait of the realities of disability and an intimate account of two lives filled with vigour and audacity.

Caro Llewellyn

Caro Llewellyn is the author of three previous works of nonfiction. She is the former director of several large-scale literary festivals and cultural events. She has hosted writers from every corner of the globe, including a number of Nobel Prize winners, and presented events at the Sydney Opera House, London’s Southbank, the Louvre, and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, Town Hall, 92Y and historic Cooper Union. Diving Into Glass is her first work of autobiography.

Judges' report

Diving into Glass is a deeply moving journey across family, love, art, literature and loss. Lit throughout with brilliant prose, this book reveals a family on the brink. Set against the backdrop of mental illness and childhood trauma, it is also the journey of the hard-fought victories that signalled changes in legislation surrounding the conditions of people with disabilities.

Llewellyn shows she has total control of the prose as she eloquently reveals the life she watched her father live—paralysed and in a wheelchair for most of his adult life as a result of polio—is something she herself may face after a diagnosis of MS.

The author takes us into the dark places of mental illness as well as the beauty of her mother’s, Kate Llewellyn, poetry. Diving into Glass is a brilliantly constructed story that is at once gripping and tender—shot through with love and empathy for the author’s family.

Further reading


‘Memoirs of illness are tricky. The raw material is often compelling: dramatic symptoms, embarrassing public moments, and unavoidable relationship pressures. The challenge is to share that raw material in a new way.’ Astrid Edwards, Australian Book Review.


Read this article for more about Diving Into Glass, Llewellyn’s diagnosis and the book that changed everything here, by Alice Walker for the ABC.

Read a short interview with Caro Llewellyn for a favourite line of her book Diving Into Glass.