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The Noonday Demon Hardcover – 3 May 2001

4.3 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 3 May 2001
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus; 1st edition (3 May 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0701168196
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701168193
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 15.6 x 4.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 293,780 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

"Breakdowns are preposterous" writes Andrew Solomon in his wide-ranging and illuminating study, The Noonday Demon: An Anatomy of Depression. With the current vogue for self-help books, medication doled out at the drop of a hat, and therapy-speak, it would seem that depression is a modern phenomenon, a reaction to the stresses of a consumerist, high-achieving world. Yet as Solomon explains, the word " depression" was "first used in English to describe low spirits in 1660"; prior to this time, the vagaries of the unquiet mind were termed "melancholia". Bravely cataloguing his own series of depressive episodes, Solomon attempts to go to the roots of the illness--for an illness it is, and has to be treated as such--by interviewing fellow sufferers, delving back into history ("the history of depression in the West is closely tied to the history of Western thought")--analysing suicide, addictions, treatments, and depression's underlying causes, from politics to poverty. At the heart of this informed, compassionate book lies Solomon's own story--an established writer with seemingly everything going for him, he succumbed to a series of breakdowns in his 31st year, and eventually rallied with the support of his father, other family members and friends, a good therapist and a shopping list of medications, which he still takes daily. Out of his depression emerged qualities of self he never knew existed, and a desire to "find and cling to the reasons for living". Solomon's dark night of the soul, on a par with Lewis Wolpert's Malignant Sadness is a significant and important chronicle. Between 10 and 15 per cent of Americans and up to 6 million people in the UK experience depression; books like The Noonday Demon might just broaden our understanding of it. --Catherine Taylor


'A mesmerising journey... magnificent', Observer .'Extraordinary and redeeming... A work of great charm and individuality but also of impressive scholarship', Evening Standard .'A lodestone work', Guardian

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
As a novelist who has written a novel about manic depression, and suffered from the more commonplace sort, I can't recommend this book too highly. A remarkable blend of personal anecdote and meticulous, scholarly research it stands with Kay Redfield Jamieson's An Unquiet Mind as one of the great books on the subject. Solomon is never self-pitying, and though you may envy him the support given him (especially by his saintly father)this is an affliction that is so widespread and so often misdiagnosed or treated that a copy should be in every household. What is especially good is his attitude to drugs and therapy, both of which can be life-saving. A fine novelist, he has found a subject that his thoughtful, pellucid, sympathetic style shows to startling advantage.
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Format: Hardcover
I could not put this book down. It is by far the best book on the subject of depression that I have read. The book has such range and depth; Solomon tackles all the angles of this complex subject with great intelligence, warmth and insight that he achieves a synthesis of the literary, political, medical, personal, historical, and philosophical dimensions of depression. Somehow the author manages to combine an incredibly personal and moving account of his own struggle with mental illness and that of others with a first class, rigorous text which any expert in the field would benefit from reading. His research, both academic and personal interviews, is impeccable, and I came away completely in awe of Solomon's command of the literature and handling of the numerous controversies surrounding the study of depression. I can't recommend this book highly enough. It is so sophisticated a treatment of the subject that it made me constantly challenge my own views and I was left feeling exhilarated by the book's wealth of subject matter and the author's sensitive and unpatronising handling of it. The Noonday Demon is a fascinating read for anyone with an interest in depression and mental illness, either personal or professional. Solomon comes across as being like the most interesting guest at a dinner party: someone you want to talk to for hours about his experiences as they are so wideranging and unusual in some instances (read the book to see what I mean). It's hard to imagine a better book on depression, and this is surprising given that Solomon is a writer as opposed to a psychiatrist/psychologist. He might as well be, however, as he appears to know at least as much as a professional does and offers us a broader and more heartfelt account than a dispassionate doctor might be able to.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
having read many books on depression i can confidently say this truly is the best ever! it does not just talk of living with the illness but also how other cultures deal with it from Tribal africans to eskimos! it tells u the history of medication and diagnosis from Greek times to present day. it also discusses the politics of having people depressed in society and its links to poverty. a big book but worth the effort!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The very first paragraph of this book hit me right between the eyes. Here was someone speaking my language, describing my world, but with an eloquence and precision I could never hope to match. A sufferer speaking to fellow sufferers, of those terrible things that those not so afflicted cannot hope and, for the most part, do not, because they should not, want to understand. As a lifetime sufferer of chronic depression I learned long ago that those self help books that promise you freedom from depression with fresh air and happy thoughts are clearly aimed at some other clinical/marketing profile. This book is aimed at those who find themselves in it for the long haul. A book for those whose lives have been blighted and dominated by depression, and have no rational reason to believe that they will ever be truly free from it. It is a book for those who have been bought to the fork in the road and accepted that this is how it is going to be, so how am I going to organise my life around it in order to make the best that can be made of it? It is certainly not a book for those who `know absolutely nothing about depression and want to get a basic overview'. For someone wanting a clinical overview of mental illness, and how depression fits into its overall continua, then perhaps Richard Bentall's Madness Explained: Psychosis and Human Nature might prove more appropriate. Non-sufferers will probably be all too apt to dismiss such writing as self-indulgent.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
A book that has both the insides and the outsides of its covers plastered with gushing reviews must have something good about it -- and this book does. It is fantastic, and deserves all the reviewers' hyperbole.
The book is the product of five years of research and 10,000 pages-worth of interviews alone. In addition, Solomon has suffered depression himself and is a novelist.
The book is certainly not a subjective account of depression. (For an interesting example of that genre see Gwynneth Lewis's recent "Sunbathing in the Rain.) It contains plenty of discussions stemming from statistics, and reports on recent scientific and psychological theories. It has a chapter devoted to the role depression might have in evolution; one on depression and poverty that has a distinctly sociological slant; one chapter that covers the history of medical treatment of depression. But it also contains a wealth of testimony from people who suffer from depression themselves -- as well as Solomon's own story, which is mostly told in two of the twelve chapters. (Around 30 people's stories are given in detail, mostly in their own words.)
I think this book is an excellent place to go to for someone who is interested in learning about depression -- not only about the science of it (what it does, how it can be treated, etc.) but also how it fits into people's lives: how they feel about it, how it came upon them, how they live with it. (For example, if you know someone who is depressed and can't understand why they don't just "snap out of it", or if you don't think it's serious enough to think about treatment -- or alternatively think that pills can cure them completely -- then this book may help you.
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