Synopses & Reviews
A brave and brilliantly researched intellectual history of the relationship between women and mental illness since 1800.
This is the story of how we have understood extreme states of mind over the last two hundred years and how we conceive of them today, from the depression suffered by Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath to the mental anguish and addictions of iconic beauties Zelda Fitzgerald and Marilyn Monroe. From Mary Lamb, sister of Charles, who in the throes of a nervous breakdown turned on her mother with a kitchen knife, to Freud, Jung, and Lacan, who developed the new women-centered therapies, Lisa Appignanesi's research traces how more and more of the inner lives and emotions of women have become a matter for medics and therapists. Here too is the story of how over the years symptoms and diagnoses have developed together to create fashions in illness and how treatments have succeeded or sometimes failed.
"Ambitious . . . brilliant . . . a powerhouse of a book."
"Fascinating. . . . A meticulous and exhaustive account."
"Sophisticated, vigorously written, full of striking subtexts . . .an entertaining and well-researched book that avoids easy answers." New York Sun
"Fascinating. . . . A meticulous and exhaustive account." Andrew Scull Times Literary Supplement
"Lisa Appignanesi, both a novelist and scholar of literature, psychoanalysis, and feminism, leads us on a grand tour of derangement, from matricide to anorexia." John Leonard, Harper's Magazine
(read the entire Harper's review
This fascinating history of mind doctors and their patients probes the ways in which madness, badness, and sadness have been understood over the last two centuries. Lisa Appignanesi charts a story from the days when the mad were considered possessed to our own century when the official psychiatric manual lists some 350 mental disorders. Women play a key role here, both as patients--among them Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, and Marilyn Monroe--and as therapists. Controversially, Appignanesi argues that women have significantly changed the nature of mind-doctoring, but in the process they have also inadvertently highlighted new patterns of illness.
"[A work of] wit, wisdom and richness. . . . A grand tour of derangement, from matricide to anorexia." --John Leonard,
About the Author
Lisa Appignanesi, a London-based writer, is chair of the Freud Museum and president of English PEN. She is the author (with John Forrester) of Freud’s Womenand many best-selling novels, including The Memory Man.