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Falling into the Fire: A Psychiatrist's Encounters with the Mind in Crisis [Paperback]

Christine Montross
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 Feb 2014

A woman habitually commits self-injury, ingesting light bulbs, a box of nails, zippers and a steak knife. A new mother is admitted with incessant visions of harming her child. A recent graduate, dressed in a tunic and declaring that love emanates from everything around him, is brought to A&E by his alarmed girlfriend. These are among the patients new physician Christine Montross meets during rounds at her hospital’s locked inpatient ward – and who we meet as she struggles to understand the mysteries of the mind, most especially when the tools of modern medicine are failing us. Beautifully written and deeply felt, Falling into the Fire is an intimate portrait of psychiatry and a moving reminder, in the words of the New York Times, of ‘our fragile, shared humanity’.

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Falling into the Fire: A Psychiatrist's Encounters with the Mind in Crisis + The Last Asylum: A Memoir of Madness in our Times + The Shock of the Fall
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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Oneworld Publications (6 Feb 2014)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 1780743661
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780743660
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 254,455 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


'Montross explores the practical, emotional, and philosophical challenges of working with patients whose illnesses of the mind are often intractable and deeply disturbing'

(The New Yorker)

'A piercing portrait of psychiatry... Montross seamlessly weaves together history, reportage and memoir while reflecting on the difficult questions that arise as she digs into psychiatry’s past.'

(Los Angeles Times)

'An absorbing glimpse into the darker rooms of the human mind. Christine Montross offers a personal guided tour through fascinating case histories and reveals how very much our minds are our selves, and not always operating in our own best interests.'

(Andrea Gillies, author of Keeper and The White Lie)

'A mind-boggling inventory of psychiatric pathologies… Dr Montross, an award-winning poet before attending medical school, is passionate about her work and her patients’ plight… The book emphasizes neither their madness nor our sanity in the face of mental disease, but our fragile and shared humanity.'

(New York Times)

'Falling Into the Fire is as good an account of the labyrinth of mental health care as you’re likely to read. [Montross’s] work in critical care psychiatric settings is the source material, and she launches from discussions of clients into larger questions about the nature of psychiatry and of mental health. Montross writes beautifully about the deep-seated illnesses that challenge therapist and psychiatrists.'

(Daily Beast)

'Montross exposes and explores the challenging, sometimes paradoxical role of psychiatric professionals… Her intriguing analysis is anchored by [a] humble and empathetic voice.'

(Publishers Weekly)

'Her poetic insights into how tragedies may be understood stir empathy, as Montross delves into the details of the history of her patients… This beautifully written book doesn’t offer answers but rather encourages compassion.'

(Library Journal)

'Montross writes of [her] encounters with a dramatic flair, ever empathetic but unsparing of occasional negative feelings, fears and frustrations... As an antidote to her daily coping with extreme behaviors, Montross writes serenely of a home life with her family. No triumphs of modern psychiatry on display here, but rather a sympathetic portrait of seriously ill patients that could guide future practitioners on the art of helping, if not always healing, the sick.'

(Kirkus Reviews)

'These stories are fascinating in the macabre way that psychiatric case studies can be, but Falling into the Fire is not a mere catalogue of human oddities… Her patients' neurons are certainly misfiring, but these individuals have just as certainly led beleaguered lives with fractured relationships… Powerful.' 

(Washington Post)

‘This account by a practising psychiatrist is the kind of confession doctors aren’t supposed to make: that they don’t always know what to do, and they may spend their entire working lives learning on the job… revealing.'


'Fascinating… [Montross] is very good at exploring the ethical issues raised by her practice… that there are no certain answers to these questions only makes them more absorbing… Montross writes beautifully.' 


'Christine Montross is the latest recruit to our distinguished line of literary psychologists… Montross goes into a great deal of interesting detail.'

(Daily Mail)

'With humanity and clarity, psychiatrist and poet Christine Montross intersperses the harrowing stories of five of the patients she met and treated… her compassion shines through.'



(Press Association)

‘Compelling… Falling into the Fire is a fine addition to a body of writing – including the work of Paul Broks, Kay Redfield Jamison and Oliver Sacks.’


‘Lucid, fluent [and] absorbing… nestles into a burgeoning genre of mental health books focusing on individual patient experiences rather than self-help prescriptions’ 

(Sunday Business Post)

About the Author

Dr Christine Montross is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behaviour at Brown University and a practising inpatient psychiatrist with an MFA in poetry. Her writing has appeared in literary journals and women’s magazines as well as the New York Times. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island.

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Customer Reviews

4.0 out of 5 stars
4.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Before becoming a psychiatrist, Christine Montross was a poet - I have looked for her poetry, but sadly I have not found any yet - and this really comes across within this book. Despite including medical language and obviously dealing with dark subject matter, Montross's writing style is very accessible.
FALLING INTO THE FIRE is her account of what it was like working within the world of psychiatry. She is open and honest about the struggles and achievements along the way, making this a very 'real' and humane book. Mental illness is so often feared, avoided or misunderstood but here, Montross tries to break some of these barriers down.
One idea I was particularly struck by was the notion of abiding with someone who is experiencing pain. As a counsellor, I come across clients who are in emotional pain, rather than physical pain, but the idea of abiding through this with that client is an interesting one.
I would certainly recommend this for anyone who works as a professional in any kind of health care setting - psychiatrists, doctors, social workers, counsellors etc should get a lot out of this book.
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Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Easy and interesting to read and yet disappointing: too "bitty", the fascinating cases described, stay unresolved often because of the "System" psychiatrists work in and the biological approach to emotional problems of modern psychiatry,
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4.0 out of 5 stars Really interesting 2 Sep 2014
I really enjoyed the insight into these cases. The only thing I would change would be more information about treatment and how patients are at this point.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 5 Aug 2014
By Carole
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Beautifully movingly written account by Dr Montross.....a cliche but a "must read" for anyone in the field.
Very worthwhile.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating look at mental health issues 4 Mar 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A real insight into mental illnesses and the quandry the medics have in treating an injured mind. For anyone wanting a look into what happens in mental health care this gives a realistic look at the many and varied aspects of mental health and the difficulties faced by both patient and doctor..
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