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

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

One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest By Ken Kesey

Title: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Author: Ken Kesey

Publisher: Penguin

First Published: 1962

Blurb:

Tyrannical Nurse Ratched rules her ward in an Oregon State mental hospital with a strict and unbending routine, unopposed by her patients, who remain cowed by mind-numbing medication and the threat of electric shock therapy. But her regime is disrupted by the arrival of McMurphy – the swaggering, fun-loving trickster with a devilish grin who resolves to oppose her rules on behalf of his fellow inmates. His struggle is seen through the eyes of Chief Bromden, a seemingly mute half-Indian patient who understands McMurphy’s heroic attempt to do battle with the powers that keep them imprisoned. (From Goodreads, 21st August 2013)

Review:

‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ is the first modern classic I have read in the last two years, and I wish I had picked it up earlier! I had seen the film with Jack Nicholson a few times before I picked the book up, and like many book lovers I felt the book was much better – though the film is still fantastic!

As you can tell from the blurb, this is a novel set in a psychiatric hospital in America. We see the arrival of R. P. McMurphy onto the ward and the destruction he brings to Nurse Ratched’s ward. Nurse Ratched has control, she has always had control. She controls the patients, the staff, the doctors, everything. McMurphy however fights against her regime. Narrated by the Chief, a long-term, half-indian patient, we see the changes McMurphy brings to the ward, and the twisted response of Nurse Ratchet. I found that the novel presented Nurse Ratched in a more sinister way than the film, and felt a real hate for her whilst also recognising the patients fear.

This is a novel where the narration is fantastic. We see a troubled mind and the way the Chief see’s the world, the fog that controls time on the ward is fantastic imagery and way to present the heavy sedating drugs. There is humor, there is fear, there is power play, there is tragedy,  there is imagery, there is everything. This is a novel where I copied down so many quotes, where I just fell in love with the writing style, and a novel that I will read again and find new aspects, and new view points.

A novel that everyone should read. A novel I wish I studied at school. A novel that I will read again and again and again. A novel which I can’t give a proper review of because there is so many things to talk about, so much to take account of, and just so much packed into the pages.

Go out and buy this book if you have not got it. If you have, read it now. If you have read it before, read it again.

5 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