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Set at the dawn of modern psychiatry in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, British author Faulks's vast, elegant novel follows two "mad-doctors," Thomas Midwinter and his close friend Jacques Rebière, as they struggle to contribute something great to the emerging discipline. A chance meeting in 1880 leads to a lifelong partnership that lasts through journeys around the Continent and across the Atlantic. The pair vow to unlock the secrets of consciousness, and the novel traces their experiences in the hellish asylums of the day and their diverging approaches to the field. As Jacques grows interested in the Viennese school of psychoanalysis and talk therapy, Thomas focuses on the neurological and evolutionary mechanisms that lead to psychosis. Faulks (Birdsong) shines in his dramatization of Thomas's lectures, presaging contemporary arguments about chemical imbalances. While his characters attempt to discover what makes us human, Faulks also meticulously depicts grief, longing, nostalgia and melancholy through a portrait of Thomas's sister, Sonia. Faulks marries extensive research with a satisfying narrative arc to create a novel that is compelling as both history and literature. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
It's daunting to begin a lengthy novel on the early history of psychiatry, but Faulks' latest (after Green Dolphin Street) is less stodgy than this description suggests. In 1880, Jacques Rebiere, a Breton medical student, meets young Englishman Thomas Midwinter at a resort in Deauville, France. They're overjoyed to discover a mutual fascination with the human mind, "the meeting point between thought and flesh." Over the next 35 years, with the help of Thomas' sister, Sonia, they single-mindedly pursue their goal: to run a clinic that will cure, not merely house, the mentally ill. Their mission takes them from the overcrowded Salpetriere Hospital in Paris to the mountains of Austria, and from California's Sierra Madres to the dry African plains, where the earliest humans walked; when describing physical landscapes, Faulks' prose is sublime. He shapes his characters' personalities with a surgeon's gentle precision, but with voluminous pages of case notes and lectures, the novel hardly wears its research lightly. Continually fascinating despite its density, this intellectual epic explores the uneasy relationship between madness and humanity. Sarah Johnson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
A creative, thoughtful beginning; a fluid complex middle and an extended and gripping conclusion. The detail of all the different settings and the characters held the reader... Read morePublished 14 days ago by Clive Deverall
I found four themes in this book:
1. Lives of characters (5 stars). Enjoyed getting to know all the main characters - both the two psychiatrists, their wives, and the... Read more
This quote is the heart and soul of this novel, from the last 100 pages of a most sophisticated, thought-provoking, and outstanding book:
"We must turn our lives, so... Read more
I really enjoy medical books but this was so long and the subject of mental disease a bit depressing. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Joan Brighton
This had a promising premise, great setting and believable characters, so what could go wrong? Instead of moving the plot along and developing the characters, the writer numbs our... Read morePublished 16 months ago by marion
Although it is almost a decade old, I came to this work only recently. The deep humanity, historical accuracy, and scientific- philosophical issues evoked swept me away. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Amazon Customer
This novel was so interesting to read. Plus, it has an exceptional and ambitious concept at its base. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Pamela Bell
Interestingly and well written. A good novel of the complexities of human nature and the exploration of the mind and psyche in the early days of therapy/psychotherapy. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Christy K