Lisa Appignanesi - Mad, Bad and Sad (4 stars)

Lisa Appignanesi - Mad, Bad and Sad



Possession, love, sex (too much or too little), religion, abuse, grief and heredity are some of the myriad causes of women’s madness, according to this book, which is subtitled ‘A History of Women and the Mind Doctors from 1800 to the Present’. And it’s no surprise to learn that those taking the most consistent bashing by the ‘psy’ professions is the mother: when she hasn’t been accused of rendering sons unfit for military service by over-nurturing them, she’s driving daughters to anorexia with inattention.

Lisa Appignanesi’s account both affirms common perceptions of the field and surprises; taking mental illness out of hospitals, off couches, and into our everyday lives, from popular malaise to the lithium in 7-Up. She writes with neither hyperbole nor sensationalism – not that either is required, so horrific, absurd and tragic are the cases and treatments. Hers is a vastly researched, engrossing, and careful study that should be required reading for both medical students and those already practitioners in the field.


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