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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strangely uplifting
A clear and compelling insight into one of life's everlasting taboos. The author writes with openness and honesty about his early descent into mental institutions and his personal struggle to break free. Fearsome and yet funny, the slippery ascent takes him through squats, prison and even the Hare Krishnas, forever stalked by his alter ego and holding on to his love of...
Published on 22 Feb 2009 by Soc 1

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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars disappointed
I had high expectations of this book, wanting to be fascinated and educated further on living with mental illness from the perspective of one who had experienced it, and gone on to live a life. John O'Donoghue is clearly a survivor and does not fall into the trap of sensationalising his experiences or relying on self pity to promote his story.
However, I felt the...
Published on 9 Jan 2011 by nicole bookworm


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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strangely uplifting, 22 Feb 2009
A clear and compelling insight into one of life's everlasting taboos. The author writes with openness and honesty about his early descent into mental institutions and his personal struggle to break free. Fearsome and yet funny, the slippery ascent takes him through squats, prison and even the Hare Krishnas, forever stalked by his alter ego and holding on to his love of poetry. Set against the hard backdrop of eighties London, this is an unsentimental poetic account of being completely set adrift at a young age and navigating your way to a future.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling stuff, 23 Feb 2009
I've just finished reading Sectioned. It's a really compelling read - full of sharp observations about people, places and atmosphere; with touches of humour; a great deal of humanity; and a growing sense of menace as the book progresses. O'Donoghue writes beautifully - clearly, dispassionately and with a natural ear for dialogue. It's also a fascinating look at a world that most of us will never experience - the now long-gone world of large mental institutions - against a backdrop of the Falklands War, 80s industrial unrest and life on the seedier side of London. Un-put-downable!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect Pitch, 18 Feb 2009
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The book is neither miserable nor self-centred. It is really accessible and often funny. Each chapter provides an insight not just into the places the author found himself but a few signs of the times as well. Though he was sectioned from 'normal' society by circumstances, he wasn't completely isolated from the outside world and what was going on. Far from it. The events all unfurl in the present tense, which worked really well - I felt like I was there. There is no overblown affectation or melodrama here. The events speak for themselves. It IS his story, but his role is as an observer and not, I'm glad to say, as a victim. He's remained intact, if a little scarred, perhaps? And he's a fine storyteller also.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, heart-rending honesty, 11 Feb 2009
I loved it. I'm normally nervous of reading anything too emotional or tragic but this book wasn't like that. Yes, the story is harrowing, heart-breaking in parts but it is written without self-pity. There is an honesty and humour which pervades and compels. I couldn't put it down. Whether you have an understanding of mental illness or not you must read it. Fantastic.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars disappointed, 9 Jan 2011
I had high expectations of this book, wanting to be fascinated and educated further on living with mental illness from the perspective of one who had experienced it, and gone on to live a life. John O'Donoghue is clearly a survivor and does not fall into the trap of sensationalising his experiences or relying on self pity to promote his story.
However, I felt the book needed more reflection about how situations affected him, how he felt- it was very factual a narrative. It jumped around from event to event. There was little focus on exploring his actual emotions relating to what he was going through. Similarly,I felt indifferent to each of the characters and his relationships with them .The factual narrative did not inspire an ounce of empathy in me. Thus, I could not empathise with the subject or really care what was going on for any of the characters. The lack of reflection and insight made me struggle to be bothered to complete the book.
Very disappointing
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sectioned a Life Interrupted, 18 Feb 2009
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I found this book difficult to put down. The title of the book seemed to be reflected in the way the book was sectioned up into the various institutions etc. John related his story skilfully across all its time zones without losing me once assisted by his chapter headings.

It was based mostly during the Thatcher years when social unrest and the feeling of hopelessness and powerlessness, which had probably always been there, became more obvious.

Without self pity John leads you though this story honestly and with humour. It gives an insight into the tradegy of mental illness to those who have not experienced it and hope to those who have.

John is a great story teller and I would recommend this book.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wry, reflective, harrowing, 22 Jan 2011
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Really impressed by this book. It opens with a powerful and disturbing scene of religious mania and abuse, charts - often with great humour - the heart-breaking dissolution of a young man's family and goes on to recount his descent into decade-long struggle with mental illness and social alienation. O'D doesn't really do self-pity but he is an acute and sensitive observer of others - his wry, reflective story reveals a shrewd understanding of the power relations that govern the world of mental health treatment and is full of tender, touching and acute pen portraits of the various characters he met along the way (many victims of Thatcher's brutal cutbacks. This is among other things a subtle indictment of the ugly 80s and should be read a reminder of what the Tories did last time in power and look like doing again).

There's real literary ability too in his powerful evocation of what it feels like to go mad - some people here have noted that it jumps around but I think that's deliberate: the fragmented narrative structure (which is actually only fragmented in those scenes where he's cracking up) captures the disorder of a mind unhinging. It's also a terrific account of mental hospital life ... anyone who's been there will recognise the world he depicts: the chemical cosh, the medieval administration of shock therapy - complete with praying priest, as if the patient was a man in need of exorcism - the dreary day rooms, the self-regarding professional interventions.

O'D goes from hospitals to halfway houses, from time on the street to a brief spell in the nick, and often sinks into desperation and despair. Writing, specifically poetry, keeps him going, and there's one poem here about his father, whose untimely heart attack begins the whole downward cycle, that's very affecting. The account of his mother`s dissolution and death, suffused with feelings of guilt and grief, is one of the strongest things in the book - unbearably sad and, in the end, at the heart of it all.

This, it should be added, is as much a story about emigration (O'Ds parents were both Irish) as it is about mental illness. Split (sectioned) between identification with the country he's been raised in and a poignant hankering after the religious and communal certainties of a lost Irish homeland, O'D's story is an acutely personal account of 2nd generation alienation. "When I first came to London, I was only 19" runs a line from the Pogues' Ould Main Drag ... O'D was born in England, but this book in its own way charts a similar London-Irish experience of psychic, social and cultural homelessness....

Ultimately, he manages to rise above it all and find some peace of mind, but only just: don't look for glib Hollywood resolutions here, but do expect to be touched by his final discovery of a way to break free from it all and find a voice.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, entertaining and thought provoking read, 10 May 2011
This review is from: Sectioned: A Life Interrupted (Paperback)
I loved this book. It conjures up feelings sights smells and sounds of growing up in the 70s and 80s brilliantly. It is surprisingly funny considering the subject matter. It also provides authoritative first hand accounts of care and provision for people with mental health problems at the time.

It is both a really gripping story about a young man triumphing over his circumstances, told with humour and incite but also an important commentary on issues affecting people with mental health problems.

The book is optimistic and joyful in its ending and beautifully written. Both my partner and myself loved it and would recommend it to everyone.
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5.0 out of 5 stars great book, 12 Jun 2014
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great read, if you like mental health or have an interest!! Sad story but its a true story well worth a read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful!, 29 Jan 2014
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Charlotte A. Terrell (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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I am studying psychology and found this book fascinating! Very well written and I read it in three days! Highly recommended.
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Sectioned: A Life Interrupted
Sectioned: A Life Interrupted by John O'donoghue (Paperback - 3 Sep 2009)
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