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Customer Review

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Finally - a bipolar memoir that hit the spot!, 13 April 2010
This review is from: Madness: A Bipolar Life (Hardcover)
I really enjoyed this. In fact, I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected to. I guess the problem with reading an autobiography that deals with something you've experienced yourself is that you go into it with different expectations to other books. After some disappointing memoirs in the past I usually go in with a rather pessimistic view - that it'll be okay but it just won't hit the mark, somehow. Unfortunately the nature of many mental disorders is such that memoirs can be very disjointed and relentlessly harrowing, whether deliberately or otherwise, which makes it harder to 'get into' and distances the reader from the story. I always HOPE that I'll really connect with the book and the author, that I'll find parts that I relate to, and that I'll come away liking and respecting the author for the way they've voiced their experiences.

Anyway, this one did what I wanted it to. It had its disjointed moments, it had its moments of utter, well, madness - but to my great joy Hornbacher kept this at a level where it deftly illustrated the mania and the psychosis she was experiencing, but didn't detract from the flow of the book and the building picture the reader was getting of Marya, her life, and the friends and family helping her along the way. Other reviews have pointed out the overlap between 'Madness' and 'Wasted', but given how closely her bipolar and eating disorders intertwined with each other at certain points, it would have been difficult to separate them completely.

All in all, the memoir reads as a journey, not from madness to sanity, but a journey from a wild place to one of growing wisdom and maturity, acceptance and hope. There was a fair bit that I could relate to, despite every person's experiences being so different, and as I read I just got the impression that Hornbacher is a very genuine, self-aware and intelligent woman - which isn't always the case ('Passing for Normal''s Amy Wilensky - I mean you). She writes with humour and sparkle which stops her story feeling too self-involved and introspective. And a final nice touch: the end of the book has a useful and informative section comprising lists of helpful organisations and websites for everyone from sufferers to families to the interested public, bipolar facts and figures, and an extensive bibliography which I've perused with some interest! Recommended - and if you like this one, I'd also highly recommend Kay Redfield Jamison's 'An Unquiet Mind' which is truly a classic among bipolar memoirs.
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Location: Derbyshire, UK

Top Reviewer Ranking: 31,529