On a Scale of One to Ten By Ceylan Scott

Title: On a Scale of One to Ten

Author: Ceylan Scott

Publisher: Chicken House Ltd

First Published: 3rd May 2018

Blurb:

Tamar is admitted to Lime Grove, a psychiatric hospital for teenagers. 

Lime Grove is home to a number of teenagers with a variety of problems: anorexia, bipolar disorder, behaviour issues. Tamar will come to know them all very well. But there’s one question she can’t… won’t answer: What happened to her friend Iris? As Tamar’s emotional angst becomes more and more clear to her, she’ll have to figure out a path to forgiveness. A shocking, moving, and darkly funny depiction of life in a psychiatric world. (From Goodreads, 9th April 2019).

Review:

This was a novel that I enjoyed but it was very typical of the many mental health books that I have read in the past. Tamara is admitted to a psychiatric hospital due to a suicide attempt and her self harm. Tamara is diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, a very underwritten about disorder, and really the reason I was drawn to this book.

This novel focuses on the relationships Tamara creates whilst at Lime Grove. But the relationships aren’t that well developed. But when you are admitted to a psychiatric ward you are placed with individuals and don’t have long to get used to their company. You are in a world where people’s most personal thoughts are shared, so relationships do become quite deep quite quickly, or what appears to be deep. So the setting itself may be part of the issue with the lack of development of relationships and is actually quite accurate of psychiatric hospital relationships for some.

I would say that some of this novel is very on point, whilst other parts aren’t that believable. There was a lack of focus on treatment and looking at ways to change thinking and working on a better set of coping strategies, which I feel is an important aspect to novels like these. However, it is based in a hospital ward and many people do not realise that the main point of an acute psychiatric ward is to get someone stable enough so they can work on their issues outside of hospital. The hospital is to keep an individual or others safe and reach a stage that they can engage in therapy once discharged. So I feel that this was an accurate description but I feel that recovery work should be looked at in novels like these. The ending felt rushed but did focus on the concept of hope, which is possibly the most valuable part of recovery when it comes to mental health issues.

This is an own-voices novel, and therefore the author has personal experience of mental health issues and this may be accurate to how she herself felt. I felt the thoughts and feelings of Tamara really did show a real insight into the mind of an individual diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. The Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) setting was a reliable account, although I feel that some of the staff were not at all realistic, whilst others seemed pretty on point. I understand that you are going to get good and bad members of staff but I feel you are more likely to get good, some bad and some okay, and this balance was not made for me personally. But everyone has a different experience and different hospital experiences depending on the ward that an individual is admitted to so this is likely a really good representation of some wards. I think because it contrasted with my experience a bit that is why I found it difficult to relate to completely. Some parts rung true whilst others didn’t, and my own bias has probably resulted in my opinion on this.

There is also a bit of a mystery going on. What happened to Iris? And this is an intriguing plot point for the novel. And one of the reasons I liked this novel. It provides a story to follow rather than the novel being solely focused on mental health symptoms.

Overall I feel this is a book that was mixed for me, but is an account worth reading, and does depict the mind of someone with Borderline Personality Disorder well. It is in some ways very accurate, but as I have said I feel books about mental health difficulties have a responsibility to address recovery and look at things that can help. But the importance of hope, at least, was focused on.

3.5 out of 5

A Danger to Herself and Others By Alyssa B. Sheinmel


Title: A Danger to Herself and Others

Author: Alyssa Sheinmel

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

First Published: February 5th 2019

Audiobook Narrator: Devon Sorvari

Blurb:

Only when she’s locked away does the truth begin to escape… 

Four walls. One window. No way to escape. Hannah knows there’s been a mistake. She didn’t need to be institutionalized. What happened to her roommate at her summer program was an accident. As soon as the doctors and judge figure out that she isn’t a danger to herself or others, she can go home to start her senior year. In the meantime, she is going to use her persuasive skills to get the staff on her side.

Then Lucy arrives. Lucy has her own baggage. And she may be the only person who can get Hannah to confront the dangerous games and secrets that landed her in confinement in the first place. (From Goodreads, 19th February 2019)

Review:

We meet Hannah in a locked room of a psychiatric hospital, but we do not know what has brought her there. We are drawn into her mind, seeing everything from her point of view. To begin with, she only has short interactions with her psychiatrist who she names Lightfoot. Our only knowledge of why she is there is written on her file, Hannah is deemed “a danger to herself and others”. We begin to learn more about Hannah when she gains a roommate, Lucy. When Lucy arrives Hannah begins to reveal her more manipulative side and we start to feel the undertones of why Hannah may be in the hospital.

A Danger to Herself and Others is a difficult book to review as I do not want to give any spoilers. For the first third to half of the book, I was questioning a lot of the reality of the setting and treatment given which gave me an inkling about the progression of the novel. I felt uneasy about the novel but I think this was intentional. Once we learn more about Hannah and what brought her to the hospital things begin to make sense and the book became more comfortable to read.

This novel has a very constrained list of characters and focuses almost solely on Hannah and her view of things and this means we have an unreliable narrator. For some people, this novel may feel quite slow as there isn’t too much action, especially in the beginning, but it is a good insight into someone’s mind. This is what I found interesting, was the slow build-up of character. A Danger to Herself and Others is different from most books set in a psychiatric hospital that I have read as this novel does not focus too heavily on the interactions between patients, other than between Hannah and Lucy. Things begin to progress a bit faster in the second half of the book as we begin to learn more about what transpired leading Hannah to be placed in the hospital. This is when I began to enjoy the book more.

An issue I had, however, was the ending, it was sudden and although realistic it did not really highlight the potential for recovery, it focused mainly on the negatives like recurrent relapses. This I felt was a negative way to end a book, which I feel could have done more to inspire hope towards readers.

My overall opinion of A Danger to Herself and Others was that it tackled mental health problems that are usually not seen in young adult fiction. But it lacked depth into these illnesses and did not inspire hope in the way that it could have. I understand being realistic but I just felt the ending was drab. I felt a lot more could have been done with this novel.

I listened to the audiobook of A Danger to Herself and Others and felt the narrator did a fantastic job of bringing to life Hannah as a character. I would recommend listening to this audiobook for a more immersive experience.

3.5 out of 5

Audiobooks

Audiobooks have become a love of mine over the last two years. When I was finding it difficult to read physical books due to lack of attention audiobooks allowed me to keep escaping into the pages of books.

Where do I get audiobooks?I get my audiobooks from two places, firstly the library. Unfortunately, my library has quite a poor selection of audiobooks available digitally, and their physical audiobooks have often skipped and not played properly. This led me to start using audible, an Amazon company. I started off with their free trial, I then went to a monthly subscription, and now I pay a year in full. Audible subscriptions work on a credit system with one credit getting you one audiobook. Another aspect I like about Audible is whispersync for voice feature. This is when you buy a Kindle book you can get the audiobook at a reduced price. When you read your Kindle book, you can then listen to the audiobook and it will have updated to where you have read to, and vice-versa. I like Audible, however, there are other places to go for audiobooks, for example, Scribed, Google Play Books, Kobo, Nook, and iTunes. These are just some examples but I do not know how good these services are or what their value for money is. I would first suggest checking out what your local library has to offer as this is a way to trial audiobooks for yourself without the outlay of money.

What audiobooks do I recommend? I recommend any book narrated by Stephen Fry. Stephen Fry has a wonderfully emotive voice and he immerses you in whatever story he is telling. I would recommend the Harry Potter books narrated by Stephen Fry. I found beginning to listen to audiobooks I could drift a bit from the story, so listening to a book I already had read I would be able to concentrate better and get into the way of audiobooks. Plus Stephen Fry just brings to life the Harry Potter books that take me back to my childhood when I first read these magical stories.

The Diviners series by Libba Bray narrated by January LaVoy are fantastically creepy and beautifully told. This is a perfect series if you are looking for a supernatural mystery with a sinister feel. Set in the 1920’s Evie O’Neil becomes integral in capturing an occult serial killer who is terrifying to read about.

The Strange the Dreamer duology By Lanni Taylor narrated by Steve West is another fantastic audiobook to listen to. This is a beautifully lyrical book that is brought to life in its narration. We follow Lazlo Strange who is obsessed with the city of Weep, a city that has lost its true name. When Lazlo gets the chance to visit Weep he is taken on a thrilling adventure where he discovers more about what happened to Weep and why this city fell. This is a series where it is best to go in without knowing much about the novels and just falling into the story. Definitely one for those who like beautiful writing and light fantasy.

Norse Mythology By Neil Gaiman narrated by Neil Gaiman is also a good audiobook to listen to. His take on Norse mythology is entertaining and easy to access. It is an audiobook you can nip in and out of as each chapter is a separate story. I listened to this book in one day, but will definitely listen to again. This again is a good starting place for audiobooks as it is lots of little stories that you can listen to without having to concentrate for long periods of time, and will allow you to get into the way of listening to books.

An audiobook I really enjoyed but is a little harder to follow was Challenger Deep By Neal Schusterman narrated by Michael Curran-Dorsano. This is a novel about a young boy in a psychiatric hospital, whilst experiencing psychotic symptoms. This is a beautiful portrayal of mental illness. This is an entertaining listen with an important look at mental health. Flitting between Caden when he is present in the hospital and when he is consumed by his hallucinations we experience a story of creativity and poignancy. An important read for anyone interested in mental health.

There are a lot of audiobooks out there with fantastic narrators that bring the character to life. It is one of the most immersive forms of ready I have experienced and is delightful. I am hoping that I have convinced at least one person to try out audiobooks with this post.

Audiobooks I am looking forward to reading. I have a few audiobooks in my library that I am excited to listen to. Firstly, there is Sadie By Courtney Summers which is narrated by a full cast. I have heard fantastic things about Sadie and am interested in listening to a full cast narration of the book. Sadie’s sister has been murdered but the police investigation was botched, so Sadie is going to try and find the killer herself. West Macray is a crime podcaster and starts to publish content about Sadie’s sisters murder, we therefore listen to Sadie’s story both from her own point of view and via West’s podcasts. I think this inclusion of podcasts will make the story more immersive and interesting to listen to and I look forward to getting to this book.

Mythos by Stephen Fry narrated by himself is another audiobook I am looking forward to listening to…basically I love Stephen Fry and having a book written by him which he narrates is all I need to know!

Before the Devil Breaks You By Libba Bray is the third book in the Diviners series and having enjoyed the first two instalments I can’t wait to find out what happens to the characters next and what evil will show up in this novel.

I hope this introduction to audiobooks was interesting and helpful.

The Medea Complex By Rachel Florence Roberts

Title: The Medea Complex

Author: Rachel Florence Roberts

First Published: 31st October 2013

Publisher: CreateSpace

Blurb:

1885. Anne Stanbury – Committed to a lunatic asylum, having been deemed insane and therefore unfit to stand trial for the crime of which she is indicted. But is all as it seems?

Edgar Stanbury – the grieving husband and father who is torn between helping his confined wife recover her sanity, and seeking revenge on the woman who ruined his life.

Dr George Savage – the well respected psychiatrist, and chief medical officer of Bethlem Royal Hospital. Ultimately, he holds Anne’s future wholly in his hands.

The Medea Complex tells the story of a misunderstood woman suffering from insanity in an era when mental illnesses’ were all too often misdiagnosed and mistreated. A deep and riveting psychological thriller set within an historical context, packed full of twists and turns, The Medea Complex explores the nature of the human psyche: what possesses us, drives us, and how love, passion, and hope for the future can drive us to insanity. (From Goodreads, 12th May 2014)

Review:

A novel based on true events within Bethlem Royal Hospital in the 17th century, sounds really interesting in my opinion and therefore I was really happy to see this book on the Amazon Prime Kindle Lending Library. And for that I am grateful, because I would have been disappointed if I had paid to read this  novel. Harsh? Maybe. Maybe not.

We are flung in right at the beginning with Anne waking up unaware of where she is and quickly we are taken into her world within the psychiatric ward, or solitary confinement in which she begins her stay at Bethlem Royal Hospital. Anne is confined because she killed her own son, however she cannot remember this or the fact that she had a son. The narrator switches to include Anne’s husband, father, her psychiatrist and others. I personally enjoy novels with changing narrators however I felt this novel would have benefited from only two or three maximum narrators, this is a personal opinion. Further, the novel started off intriguing to me then quickly just fell apart, with the story losing focus and flow.

There is very little I can say without giving away the story line, but there is so much more that could have been done with this novel in my opinion and it feel short of my expectations.

This is not a novel that I recommend unfortunately. I say unfortunately because I saw so much potential, especially near the beginning, the beginning was excellent, but as I said above it just lost focus and drive for me by the second half.

2.5 out of 5

Willow By Julia Hoban

Title: Willow

Author: Julia Hoban

First Published: 2009

Publisher: Speak

Blurb:

Seven months ago on a rainy March night, Willow’s parents drank too much wine at dinner and asked her to drive them home. But they never made it–Willow lost control of the car, and both of her parents were killed.

Now seventeen, Willow is living with her older brother, who can barely speak to her. She has left behind her old home, friends, and school. But Willow has found a way to survive, to numb the new reality of her life: She is secretly cutting herself.

And then she meets Guy, a boy as sensitive and complicated as she is. When Guy discovers Willow’s secret, he pulls her out of the solitary world she’s created for herself, and into a difficult, intense, and potentially life-changing relationship. (From Goodreads, 12th May 2014).

Review:

‘Willow’ was one of those novels that helped get me out of a reading slump, however, ‘Willow’ is not the greatest book I have read focusing on self-injury. On the other hand, for a novel aimed at teenagers this deals well with a topic many individuals do not understand whilst also dealing with love, death, loss, stress, friendships and much more ‘life stuff’.

Willow is a girl who blames herself for the death of her parents, whilst also feeling like a burden to her older brother and his wife and baby cousin. Both Willow and her brother have not yet come to terms with the sudden death of their parents or the sudden changes in their living arrangements. Willow cuts herself to help escape the true pain she is feeling inside, it is the only way she manages to cope with life. However, soon her life begins to spiral out of her control when Guy, a boy from school who quickly enters her life, finds out that Willow cuts herself. We soon follow this relationship, through ups-and-downs and watch how life begins to change for both individuals who each carry the knowledge of Willows cutting.

As I said above, I have read other novels regarding the topic of self-injury that I preferred, but this may be due to two things. Firstly, I read a lot of books on this topic when I was in my teenage years, and therefore know the formula. Second, I have also read many books about self-injury aimed at adult audiences, and also researched a lot about self-injury, which includes case examples and memoirs. Therefore, having such a knowledge, and having exhausted (at the time) many of the books focusing on self-injury aimed at teenagers during my teenage years I may be slightly harsh compared to other readers. For that I appologise.

I did enjoy ‘Willow’ as it was fast paced and Julia Hoban successfully incorporated Willows life into the novel with self-injury not being the main focus, which is nice. It reminds you that individuals who self-injure have a life with stresses and why these stresses result in self-injury. We have a teenager who is going through many ‘normal’ teenage stresses, such as a new school, exams, making friends, whilst also dealing with more extreme difficulties, such as her parents death.

‘Willow’ is a novel that tactfully addresses many hard hitting issues and some more run of the mill teenage issues without belittling them or over exaggerating them. It is because of this that makes ‘Willow’ a believable and human novel. It also means I feel able to recommend ‘Willow’ to individuals who self-injure, friends  and family of individuals who self-injure, and also those who are interested in mental health related fiction. This is a novel that as a teenager I would have loved to have found in the school or local library, just simply because it reminds you that you are not alone. Novels that deal with difficult issues specifically aimed at teenagers are so important and valuable, no matter what the topic, just to give someone even a small amount of strength to find the help and advice so many of us need.

However, for me this novel is only a 3.5 out of 5 stars, but I would imagine if I read this novel when I was in my teenage years (and mot my mid twenties) I would have given it 4 to 4.5 stars.

Your Voice in my Head By Emma Forrest

Title: Your Voice in my Head

Author: Emma Forrest

First Published: 1st January 2011

Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC

Blurb:

Emma Forrest, an English journalist, was twenty-two and living in America when she realised that her quirks had gone beyond eccentricity. Lonely, in a dangerous cycle of self-harm and damaging relationships, she found herself in the chair of a slim, balding and effortlessly optimistic psychiatrist – a man whose wisdom and humanity would wrench her from the vibrant and dangerous tide of herself, and who would help her to recover when she tried to end her life. Emma’s loving and supportive family circled around her in panic. She was on the brink of drowning. But she was also still working, still exploring, still writing, and she had also fallen deeply in love. One day, when Emma called to make an appointment with her psychiatrist, she found no one there. He had died, shockingly, at the age of fifty-three, leaving behind a young family. Processing the premature death of a man who’d become her anchor after she’d turned up on his doorstep, she was adrift. And when her significant and all-consuming relationship also fell apart, she was forced to cling to the page for survival. A modern-day fairy tale of New York, Your Voice in My Head is a dazzling and devastating memoir, clear-eyed and shot through with wit. In a voice unlike any other, Emma Forrest explores breakdown and mania, but also the beauty of love – and the heartbreak of loss. (From Goodreads, 24th November 2013)

Review:

When Emma discovers that her Psychiatrist has passed away she begins to reminisce about the man who had helped her to begin stabilizing her rather turbulent life. We learn about both Emma and her Psychiatrist through Emma’s words.

‘Your Voice in my Head’ is a novel written with a rawness that epitomizes the deep depressions Emma has encountered, along with the risky behavior of her highs.

This is a novel about grief and loss, as well as about finding strength, and using the lessons of those who are dead to help you in your future. It shows us the selflessness of some people, and the selfishness of others. This is a novel about people. The good and the bad. However, unlike many novels about mental illness, in this novel Emma manages to work, and continue with life even when this seems impossible. This was ‘nice’ because many books out there about mental health, memoirs and fiction, deal with people who do not function, cannot work and often are institutionalized. In this case it was a breath of fresh air to see someone dealing with severe mental illness but still holding life together, however precariously. Considering the majority of people with mental health problems are treated in the community and manage to work, it is a group highly under represented in the book world.

At the time of reading ‘Your Voice in my Head’ I had just suffered a bereavement and initially gave this book 3 out of 5 stars on my Goodreads account. However, I feel after writing this review that I did not appreciate this books as much as I think I would have if I were to have read it at a different time. I now believe this is a novel I will have to re-read in order to give an accurate rating, but due to the points I raised above I will give ‘Your Voice in my Head’ a 4 out of 5.

There are Reasons Noah Packed No Clothes By Robert Jacoby

Title: There are Reasons Noah Packed No Clothes

Author: Robert Jacoby

First Published: 1st October 2012

Publisher: Cloud Books

Blurb:

You need your eyes, don’t you?

So does Richard Issych. Two weeks ago he overdosed. Now he’s fighting for his life, finding threatening notes like that one on his nightstand.

“There are Reasons Noah Packed No Clothes” is the story of 19-year-old Richard Issych, who wakes to a harsh new reality inside an inpatient unit. Now Richard’s journey turns into one of revelations and struggling through his own reasons for being as he discovers new meanings for redemption, sacrifice, hope, love-and the will to live.

In the end, what are the reasons Noah packed no clothes? Richard can only imagine. But it has something to do with a size 3XL bowling shirt with the name “Noah” stitched over the pocket.

There are reasons . . . everyone uses his own dictionary.

There are reasons . . . some new heavens come from some new hells.

There are Reasons Noah Packed No Clothes. (From Goodreads, 19th November 2013)

Review:

Richard Issych wakes up in a psychiatric hospital after a failed suicide attempt. He is disoriented and unable to function. But soon he begins to learn about ward life, develop ‘friendships’ with the other patients, and learn about himself and his depressive illness.

This is a novel written from Richards view in which Robert Jacoby captures through his writing style the true confusion and altered mental state Richard is experiencing. However, this writing style is confusing and can be difficult to follow at times, but it allows the reader to get a better understanding of what it can be like for some people suffering with acute mental illness.

I have read many novels about mental illness and this is one of the few that captures the mental state of the protagonist well with the structure of the prose. But, I just felt there was a lack of conclusion, a lack of real journey. Yes, we do see Richard improve and develop an understanding of mental illness. We see some reflection and development of relationships, but on the other hand I found there to be very little plot to keep me interested in the novel.

A novel to gain an insight into the mind of a psychiatric patient, with lyrical prose. However, the lack of real plot made this a rather circular novel with no real conclusion in my opinion.

3 out of 5

Addition By Toni Jordan

Title: Addition

Author: Toni Jordan

Publisher: Sceptre

First Published: 2008

Blurb:

Everything counts . . .

Grace Lisa Vandenburg orders her world with numbers: how many bananas she buys, how many steps she takes to the café, where she chooses to sit, how many poppy seeds are in her daily piece of orange cake. Every morning she uses 100 strokes to brush her hair, 160 strokes to brush her teeth. She remembers the day she started to count, how she used numbers to organize her adolescence, her career, even the men she dated. But something went wrong. Grace used to be a teacher, but now she’s surviving on disability checks. According to the parents of one of her former students, “she’s mad.”

Most people don’t understand that numbers rule, not just the world in a macro way but their world, their own world. Their lives. They don’t really understand that everything and everybody are connected by a mathematical formula. Counting is what defines us . . . the only thing that gives our lives meaning is the knowledge that eventually we all will die. That’s what makes each minute important. Without the ability to count our days, our hours, our loved ones . . . there’s no meaning. Our lives would have no meaning. Without counting, our lives are unexamined. Not valued. Not precious. This consciousness, this ability to rejoice when we gain something and grieve when we lose something—this is what separates us from other animals. Counting, adding, measuring, timing. It’s what makes us human.

Grace’s father is dead and her mother is a mystery to her. Her sister wants to sympathize but she really doesn’t understand. Only Hilary, her favorite niece, connects with her. And Grace can only connect with Nikola Tesla, the turn-of-the-twentieth-century inventor whose portrait sits on her bedside table and who rescues her in her dreams. Then one day all the tables at her regular café are full, and as she hesitates in the doorway a stranger—Seamus Joseph O’Reilly (19 letters in his name, just like Grace’s)—invites her to sit with him. Grace is not the least bit sentimental. But she understands that no matter how organized you are, how many systems you put in place, you can’t plan for people. They are unpredictable and full of possibilities—like life itself, a series of maybes and what-ifs.

And suddenly, Grace may be about to lose count of the number of ways she can fall in love. (From Goodreads, 28th June 2013)

Review:

Well if you have made it to the review after the largest blurb on earth (pause for laughter…). This is a novel that has been living in my bookcase for about 3 or 4 years. It is a fictional account of Grace who has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Grace must count items, actions, everything to ease her anxiety. Her life is structured.But when she meets Seamus her structure begins to disappear. Will this relationship make or break Grace?

I enjoyed this novel. I thought the way OCD was dealt with was good, and accurate. It shows that OCD is not always about cleaning, that it can stop people from living their lives. But this good side was brought down because of the romance focus of the novel. I did not realise that this novel was more of a romance than someone dealing with a mental illness. Maybe if I had looked more into the book and read reviews 4 years ago I would have realised that this was the case.

I think if you want a quirky romance which strays slightly from the usual romance genera this will be for you. If you like the more hard hitting, rough mental health stories which I ‘enjoy’ and find very educational Addition is probably not for you.

3 out of 5

The Boy Who Could See Demons By Carolyn Jess-Cooke

Title: The Boy Who Could See Demons

Author: Carolyn Jess-Cooke

Publisher: Piatkus

First Published: 10th May 2012

Blurb:

“I first met my demon the morning that Mum said Dad had gone.”

Alex Broccoli is ten years old, likes onions on toast, and can balance on the back legs of his chair for fourteen minutes. His best friend is a 9000-year-old demon called Ruen. When his depressive mother attempts suicide yet again, Alex meets child psychiatrist Anya. Still bearing the scars of her own daughter’s battle with schizophrenia, Anya fears for Alex’s mental health and attempts to convince him that Ruen doesn’t exist. But as she runs out of medical proof for many of Alex’s claims, she is faced with a question: does Alex suffer from schizophrenia, or can he really see demons? (From Goodreads, 24th June 2013)

Review:

I saw this book when I was shopping and had never heard of it but the title interested me straight away. Then I read the blurb, and thought this is a novel I will love!

Childhood psychiatry is a interest of mine and this book has both sides – the child and the therapist. Alex is a 10 year old boy who sees demons. Ruen is his best friend and is a demon. But is Ruen good for Alex? Is he real? Is Ruen just a symptom of an illness? Is Ruen a way of dealing with the loss of his father? Or is it the way he deals with his mothers depression and repeated suicide attempts? Or is Ruen real? These are some of the many questions that go through psychiatrist Anya’s head when she meets Alex. Anya desperately wants to help Alex and feels hospitalisation would be best for him. However, Anya’s daughter battled with Schizophrenia and this complicates matters.

I love this concept. A young boy who see’s demons with a mother who has attempted suicide and is currently in hospital. A psychiatrist who is dealing with the scars of her own child’s illness. The constant question ‘does Alex see demons or is he ill?’ Some romance is thrown in. Some traumas. Some mystery. Some fantasy. Some drama. Basically everything is in this book. But I think that’s where it falls down. There is a bit too much that not everything is fully developed and leaves you with just a few too many questions.

Lovely novel. Exciting. But just too many questions left unanswered.

4 out of 5.

Henry’s Demons By Patrick and Henry Cockburn

Title: Henry’s Demons: A Father and Sons Journey Out of Madness

Author: Patrick and Henry Cockburn

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

First Published: February 1st 2011

Blurb:

On a cold February day two months after his twentieth birthday, Henry Cockburn waded into the Newhaven estuary outside Brighton, England, and nearly drowned. Voices, he said, had urged him to do it. Nearly halfway around the world in Afghanistan, journalist Patrick Cockburn learned from his wife, Jan, that his son had suffered a breakdown and had been admitted to a hospital. Ten days later, Henry was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Narrated by both Patrick and Henry, this is the extraordinary story of the eight years since Henry’s descent into schizophrenia–years he has spent almost entirely in hospitals–and his family’s struggle to help him recover. (From Goodreads, 7th June 2013)

Review:

Amazing. Breathtaking. Frank. Emotional. Frightening. Facinating. Informative. Exciting. Everything really.

I loved this book and I have read a lot of non-fiction books about people’s experiences of mental illness and frankly this is the best in the long long list that I have read!

This novel is written by both Henry and his father Patrick, starting with Patrick receiving that life changing phone call from his wife telling him that their eldest son was in a psychiatric ward. Here Patrick takes us through the journey of a parent entering the unknown world of mental illness. The wish for a quick fix, the realisation that mental illness does not go away just because you are given a drug.

Henry gives us a glimpse of his world, what happened to him. Although you may think isn’t Patrick telling us that too? Yes he is telling us what happened to Henry, but he knows he cannot explain the experience Henry had. This is one example of the uniqueness of this novel. What Henry experiences is real to him, despite the fact that they are symptoms of Schizophrenia they are as real to him as computer screen in front of you is to you.

Henry writes with a frankness that leads you through his journey. You feel for what he and his family have been through and are still going through but you also learn the side of Schizophrenia that many do not know about or fail to appreciate, some times people enjoy their hallucinations, and this is the case for some of Henry’s hallucinations, they made him feel part of nature, free…

Patrick writes with the eloquency that a journalist should have. He does not sugar coat, and cites research and talks in a balanced way about the mental health system and the pros and cons of the system. Looks at the history of mental health care without sounding like an intro to clinical psychology book! But also is the father who has watched his family deal with the unpredictability of mental illness and the steep learning curve in understanding the ‘disorder’/’illness’ – whatever you want to call it – along with the complexities of the system. Patrick also takes account of the different perceptions of Henry’s Schizophrenia – Henry’s, his, his wife, his younger son, the nurses, Henry’s friends, Doctors, Psychiatrists, the Police etc.

This is a well balanced novel that shows a family’s continuing journey into previously unknown land.

5 out of 5