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March 1, 2013 7:26 pm
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, by Susannah Cahalan, Particular Books, RRP£16.99, 264 pages
Susannah Cahalan, a reporter at the New York Post, was a self-possessed, vivacious and sane 24-year-old who, over the course of a month, deteriorated into raging psychosis, convinced that her father had taken her hostage and that she could age people with her mind.
Thanks to a persistent neurologist, Cahalan was eventually diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease and began to recover.
The narrative works best when Cahalan is piecing together her brush with madness through diary entries, hospital records and CCTV footage. She makes her insanity lucid, and even the relentless medical explanations enrich rather than obscure.
“With every memory I recapture, I know there are hundreds ... that I cannot conjure up,” she writes. Brain on Fire expresses beautifully the pain of losing one’s identity and the fight to regain it.
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