Book Review – Brain On Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

It’s been a lonnnng time since I read a book for pleasure. As soon as my friend Andrea recommended ‘Brain On Fire: My Month of Madness‘ by Susannah Cahalan, I literally rushed out to Chapters the next day to buy it. If you’re looking for a good summer read, look no further. As a person who has seen what mental illness can do to someone, this book felt like an inside look at what someone dealing with that goes through every single day. That’s something I can’t even begin to relate to.

As a combination memoir and non-fiction book, it tells the medical mystery of Susannah Cahalan; a normal twenty-something with a steady job as a writer at a New York paper and new-found relationship. Her life seemed to be almost idealistic when she suddenly wakes up strapped to hospital bed unable to move or speak with absolutely no idea of how she got there, labeled as violent, psychotic, and a flight risk. This book pulled me in instantly, a dialogue of Cahalan’s ‘descent into madness’ and a lifesaving diagnosis that almost came too late.

I will add that although most of it is true to the events, because of the history of what happened, a lot of her writing is based on the personal journals, family writings, doctors notes, and what she could remember (which is prefaced at the beginning of the novel).

If I’m being honest, it was a very quick read but I think that’s because I was so into it, I read it every spare second I had and ended up finishing it in three days. The writing itself wasn’t overly complex – although you do hear a lot of medical and psychological terminology. Because it was a memoir, I found that it was written in ‘easy English’ – think reading through someone’s diary.

Overall, I’m glad I picked this up as quickly as I did. It’s been a while since I read a book that pulled me in like this one and highly recommend you also add a copy to your personal library.

 

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