Review: Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

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Have you ever wondered what it would be like if everything you were – your personality, home, job: your whole self – disappeared before your very eyes? With startling realism and dry perception, Susannah Cahalan writes about when this happened to her.

Just an ordinary New Yorker, Susannah was a reporter for The New York Post at the time. A few chapters in and her various symptoms are explored: bright colours, obsessive thoughts and fits. In a later aside it’s noted that the author cannot remember some of the events that transpired. Yet, with true investigative skills, those months were reassembled; her memoir is addictive because of how these fragments of the sequence of events are put together.

It took months for a diagnosis to be correct, but turned out that a rare autoimmune disease was present, inflaming one side of Susannah’s brain (hence the title).

Brain on Fire is interesting, simply because there’s nothing quite like it; for all its addictive quality, dry reconstruction, and self-reflection. It’s at time life-affirming, even a sad read. I would be surprised if anyone doesn’t at least shed a tear; it mixes up all sorts of emotions.

For me, the book would have been far more readable if it had a lot less medical terminology – that made it very specialist, and at times hard to understand what was going on. If the prose was just a little more direct, I personally think it could be a better book.

Nonetheless, this is a great book worthy of a place on every bookshelf. It seeks to educate the reader and much more – don’t miss the follow-up book set for 2017. However, if you aren’t planning on reading this book any time soon then it may well be worth seeing the film adaptation, in which Chloe Mortez will star.

Have you read Brain on Fire or anything like it? Tweet us with your opinion of this modern classic at @LibertyBelleMag.


Words by Lydia Wilkins

Picture taken from Flickr

Jess is your Deputy Editor

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