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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful story of survival, 15 Jan 2002
By 
clarecarr@yahoo.co.uk (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Faces in the Water (Paperback)
"Faces in the Water" is a gripping account of life in a psychiatric institution as told by the fictional Istina Mavet. The narrator spends a decade of her life in two New Zealand psychiatric hospitals. The book conveys the passage of time very effectively, despite the fact that in 10 years there were few changes in treatment and no discernable change in attitude towards the patients. Electric shock treatment is the main treatment on offer, and is often used to punish "undesirable behaviour". The power relationships between doctors, nurses and patients are illustrated beautifully. And the picture of the regime administered by these well-meaning people is a terrifying one of bullying, humiliation and non-communication. Janet Frame describes Istina and her fellow patients with great warmth and compassion. Ultimately this is a wonderful story of survival. I found it a fascinating and moving one.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The de-mythologising of madness., 6 Jun 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Faces in the Water (Paperback)
Written from the point of view of a patient held within New Zealand mental institutions, Faces in the Water is an eloquent description of madness. The novel reveals the treatment of the mad while attacking the myth of the Mad Romantic heroine revealing frightening truths about the reality of mental illness. An absorbing and exciting read that broadens the range of reader experience.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A suitable case for treatment?, 26 July 2009
By 
hbw (uk) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Faces In The Water (VMC) (Paperback)
For most of us, a false diagnosis of schizophrenia followed by eight years in a mental hospital is the stuff of nightmares. When it happens to a writer, it becomes the material for a novel. Although based on author Janet Frame's real experiences, she is quite clear that this is a work of fiction rather than a fictionalised autobiography.

"Faces in the Water" is narrated by Istina Mavet, a psychiatric in-patient. In it, she gives an account of her journey through the hospital system where each successive ward, like the Circles of Hell, is more terrible than the one before.

The power of this novel lies in its understated portrayal of the institutional power of the hospital system, and the medical orthodoxies that underpin it, to depersonalise staff and patients. It is no accident that the ultimate treatment is a form a brain surgery that guarantees to change a patient's personality.

This novel has rightly been assigned a place in the "literature of madness" alongside such classics as Antonia White's Frost in May; although, at times, Istina's enforced passivity in the face of well-intentioned cruelty reminded me of the young Jane Eyre.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astounding, 25 Jun 2012
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This review is from: Faces In The Water (VMC) (Paperback)
Janet Frame can really write. Especially about mental illness and what happens to you in institutions. Fascinating and moving, I was full of admiration for her.
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Faces In The Water (VMC)
Faces In The Water (VMC) by Janet Frame (Paperback - 5 Mar 2009)
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