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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

4.18  ·  Rating Details ·  495,943 Ratings  ·  7,426 Reviews
"In this classic of the 1960s, Ken Kesey's hero is Randle Patrick McMurphy, a boisterous, brawling, fun-loving rebel who swaggers into the world of a mental hospital and takes over. A lusty, life-affirming fighter, McMurphy rallies the other patients around him by challenging the dictatorship of Nurse Ratched. He promotes gambling in the ward, smuggles in wine and women, a ...more
Mass Market Paperback, 325 pages
Published February 1st 1963 by Berkley (first published 1962)
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Eden Phillips What an excellent question - thank you for bringing this up.

To sum up what I am about to say, yes, I did like the book as a whole. I think a work can…more
What an excellent question - thank you for bringing this up.

To sum up what I am about to say, yes, I did like the book as a whole. I think a work can be considered great in its entirety, despite the fact that it contains problems, so long as we recognize those problems and regard them as artifacts of a time gone by. This does not mean we should excuse them - but I'll get to that later.

I was perturbed by one of the novel's central conflicts: the patients versus Miss Ratched. Near the beginning of the book, McMurphy mentions how he couldn't stand to live under a "matriarch" - he wasn't going to let a woman rule him. Yes, Ratched is an awful bitch. But in that statement, it didn't seem like McMurphy hated her for her sheer bitchiness; he hated her because she was a woman with more power than him, as evidenced by McMurphy's attack. I would've understood the strangling, but the ripping of the dress to reveal her breasts? That was an attack on femininity as a symbol, no way around it.

Since misogyny is an actual theme of the book, that makes it harder for me to love it. Still, though, I try to look at the work as a whole and judge it based on its craft and Kesey's mastery of language. The social issues should be discussed, and certainly not be forgiven as "something they did back then" (I will never accept this as an excuse). But generally I like the book. I truly do.(less)
RJohnson The copy that I saw indicated that Kesey drew them, but frankly, I found the drawings distracting and acquired an edition without them. Others may…moreThe copy that I saw indicated that Kesey drew them, but frankly, I found the drawings distracting and acquired an edition without them. Others may find them interesting, though.(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Samara Steele
Nov 16, 2008 Samara Steele rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Last night, at about 2 am, I finished 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' by Ken Kesey.

I lay awake for a long time afterward, watching the bars of light on the ceiling, holding my eyes open until the pupils dilated enough to shrink the light, then I'd blink and have to start all over.

Finally I sat up and turned on the lights.

The book had done something to me. Like it'd punched me in the face and said, "Do something, you idiot!"

So I gathered up a bunch of sentimental shit from around my apartment
...more
Milo
Nov 04, 2008 Milo rated it it was ok
I have a love/hate relationship with this book. The writing and imagery are superb and I always love a "down with tyrannical overloads, generic living, and medicalization" moral, but its other lesson leaves me cringing. In the basic knowledge I have of Ken Kesey, the book ultimately seems very misogynistic and anti-feminist. I'm all for a gender balance, but this book botches up the entire process in a method that purposely lacks tongue-in-cheek flair.

Basically, the plot seems to involve men me
...more
Shelby *trains flying monkeys*
Apr 16, 2015 Shelby *trains flying monkeys* rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Shelby *trains flying monkeys* by: Edward Lorn
My friend Ed was recently updating his books with reviews on here and this book popped up in my feed. It's my husband's favorite movie/book of all time and I realized that I had never picked the book up. I've watched bits and pieces of the movie in the three thousand times that my husband has watched it, but I had never experienced it first hand.
I'm gutted.
Why have I not just sat down and watched the film that was made from this book? I'm completely off my rocker.


Randle Patrick McMurphy. That g
...more
Lyn
Aug 13, 2016 Lyn rated it it was amazing
Profane, hilarious, disturbing, heartbreaking, shocking – powerful.

Ken Kesey’s genre defining 1962 novel that was made into a Broadway play and then made into an Academy Award winning film starring Jack Nicholson will inspire strong emotions. I can see people loving it or hating it.

I loved it.

First of all, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart: a book that is banned from libraries has a place on my bookshelf.

So all you amateur censurers out there – you are my enemy. I don’t like you. I de
...more
Evgeny
Dec 28, 2015 Evgeny rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classic
…one flew east, one flew west,
One flew over the cuckoo’s nest.


This classic book gave birth to a movie which won a truckload of Academy Awards. This means the majority of readers are familiar with one or the other and I thought a very brief review would be enough; something along the lines, "The book is very good". Seeing that some people miss the point of the story I had to ramble a little more than this short sentence, sorry.

A ward of a mental hospital in Oregon was ruled by an iron hand of it
...more
K.D. Absolutely
Aug 23, 2009 K.D. Absolutely rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: Time 100, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
"Ting. Tingle, tingle, tremble toes,
She’s a good fisherman, catches hens, puts ‘em inna pens
Wire blier, limber lock, three geese inna flock
One flew east, one flew west
One flew over the cuckoo’s nest

O-U-T- spells out… goose swoops down and plucks you out."
The title of the book was taken from a nursery rhyme but the first 3 and last lines were from the book, i.e., thoughts inside the head of the schizophrenic narrator, Chief Bromden as the nursery rhyme was used to be sung to him by his grandmothe
...more
Aj the Ravenous Reader
Dec 15, 2015 Aj the Ravenous Reader rated it it was ok
Recommended to Aj the Ravenous Reader by: Parthiban Sekar

Really unpopular opinion coming your way. Escape while you can.^^

How much of life is defined by choices and how much is determined by fate? Or is really fate that directs life’s order or is it people’s thirst for power, to remain strong? Does the rabbit live in a hole because the wolf decided so? What happens when the rabbit decides to challenge the wolf?

Such thoughts are provoked by this widely read and loved classic novel. The messages buried in an unexpected setting (a mental institution re
...more
Ann
Jun 13, 2007 Ann rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone
This is one of the most fantastic novels of individualism pitted against the vast depersonalization of industrial society ever written. Ken Kesey has an extraordinary grasp of the challenges faced by us all in modern civilization, and he is able to convey his ideas through some of the richest imagery I have ever read. My favorite line in the novel, when Chief Bromden (the paranoid schizophrenic narrator) says, "But it's the truth, even if it didn't happen," sets the reader up from the very begin ...more
Stephanie
Funny yet heartbreaking classic story of life in an Oregon mental institution set in the 1950's!

I watched the Academy Award winning movie many years ago, but only recently read the book for the first time. After reading, I can understand why One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest consistently is featured as a "must-read" in various lists of books! Ken Kesey's depiction of how the mentally impaired were treated during this period is haunting.

The book is narrated by "The Chief" Bromden, a Native Americ
...more
Raeleen Lemay
Jan 20, 2017 Raeleen Lemay marked it as dnf
Shelves: classics, 2017
I'm not entirely sure why this isn't clicking for me, but I just can't make myself read it anymore. I don't hate it by any means, but I'm not enjoying it enough to bother to continue.
Perry
Jan 12, 2016 Perry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ratched Up: A Spectacle of the Power
Literature May Provide One's Ebullition against Oppression
"I remember when, I remember, I remember when I lost my mind

Does that make me crazy?
Does that make me crazy?
Does that make me crazy?"
Gnarls Barkley, Crazy, 2006.

[update: 8/6/16]
For me, this novel is the monotypic iconoclastic novel illustrating the evils of unbridled government oppression in the institutional forms of a democracy, both subtle and ruthless. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest evinces the
...more
Manny
Dec 20, 2008 Manny rated it really liked it
Like most people who grew up in the 60s, I loved this book and, even more, the film version with Jack Nicholson. I was reminded of it yesterday when Not and I got to talking about the Winona Ryder movie Girl, Interrupted.

"Oh," said Not dismissively, "it's just a remake of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

But I completely disagree. In fact, I think it's the most coherent criticism I've ever seen of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and does a wonderful job of subverting the message. Throughout mo
...more
Elyse
Feb 10, 2013 Elyse rated it it was amazing
I thought this was one of the best books I had ever read years ago. (just could not stop thinking of it)....

THEN....I went to see the stage play in S.F. (young maiden in High School) --

Powerful Classic!
Mariah
Oct 26, 2016 Mariah rated it really liked it
I was listening to it on audio CD and had a lot of problems with it, so I needed to take many day breaks in-between listening…. so I got a little behind!

I read this book for the goodreads book club Diversity in All Forms! If you would like to participate in the discussion here is the link: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/...

I found this book fascinating. What I am really focused on right away was the nicknames everyone had and how that represented where they stood, their importance. The BIG
...more
AMEERA
Jul 15, 2016 AMEERA rated it it was amazing
absolutely 5/5
Jonathan Ashleigh
Oct 07, 2014 Jonathan Ashleigh rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, recent
"It's the truth even if it didn't happen.”
Karly *The Vampire Ninja, Luminescent Monster & Wendigo Nerd Goddess of Canada (according to The Hulk)*


K, is for Kesey!

This is, yet another, one of those ways I have failed at life.

I first discovered the story of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in high school when I attended a student production of the same name... having a stepmother who is a psych nurse (and being an asshole) I asked her "Are you a Nurse Ratched?" to which she replied by introducing me to the movie with Jack Nicholson (shown below):



- For the record; my stepmom is TOTALLY a Nurse Ratched! -

And then, much later - as an adult
...more
Matthew Quann
Sep 17, 2016 Matthew Quann rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
I couldn’t help but think of Jack Nicholson in the movie adaptation I’ve never watched.

Sure, I’d seen bits and pieces of it as a kid, but that sort of thing didn’t do much for me back then. I remember asking my dad what the movie was about. He told me in brief, and concluded his summary with the famed ending of the story. Dear reader, offer him some forgiveness, as this was before spoiler warnings were social necessity and were instead a potential courtesy.

So why read the book? Why spend my tim
...more
emily
Nov 24, 2010 emily rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jason Koivu
I read this at a time when I was more than certain in my own mind that I was going out of my mind, so reading this then was a mindfuck.

Great characters inhabit a scary situation in Ken Kesey's beat-generation classic. Perhaps it's a beat or two after the beat... If so, one doesn't feel it's skipped a beat as it marches to the beat of its own drum!

What's going on here? Why are you talking in circles, Koivu? Am I? I honestly wasn't talking at all.

What?

Exactly.

That's exactly how I felt at times rea
...more
James
Nov 07, 2016 James rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A key novel in 1960’s US counter / LSD culture and I think has to be read in the light of that. Whilst I did like this novel, it was on the whole somewhat disappointing.

The novels strongest points I feel are:
- The main characters R P McMurphy, Nurse Ratched and the ongoing power struggle between the two which is central to the novel. Very well created, written, executed and with a definite feel of authenticity

As to the novels weaknesses:
- The attempted parallel (I think) between the treatment
...more
Nandakishore Varma
Gripping story of a power struggle within a claustrophobic setting - between a despotic nurse and rebellious inmate inside an asylum for convicts, narrated through the dispassionate voice a Native American who does not speak. This novel taught me that even the most insignificant settings can give rise to narratives of great power. The story is metaphor, and it is realised through its characterisation.

An awesome read.
Brad
i. Lost the damn book! Shit.

ii. Found it!

iii. Finished, but I need some time to let this sink in. The review is coming.

iv. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is about non-conformity. It is also about the horrors of the mental health system circa the late ‘50s & early ‘60s. I am sure it is about some other things I didn’t pick up this time around. But it is also about metaphor, and that was the theme in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest that most spoke to me.

Chief Bromden is the narrator, you se
...more
Erin ☕ *Proud Book Hoarder*

“Man, when you lose your laugh you lose your footing.”

Mental illness is always sad, I don’t care how it’s portrayed. It’s a serious subject that only deserves serious treatment, but even the insane have a sense of humor.

One Flew over the Cuckoo’s nest worked so well because the characterization was firm, realistic, detailed, and perfectly coordinated to play out the story. Told through the narrative viewpoint of Chief Broom, a silent man who pretends like he can’t speak or hear, he relays the ho
...more
David Sarkies
Sep 30, 2011 David Sarkies rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everybody
Recommended to David by: High School
Shelves: modernist
The prison of the mind
8 October 2011

This is one of those exceptional books. It was the first book that I read when I returned to adult re-entry college and for a book that they force you to read when you are at high school, it is actually pretty good. I can't say that it is the only high school book that I liked, but it is at the top of a very short list. I guess the reason we don't like books we are forced to read is because we are also forced to think about them deeply and then write essays d
...more
Shovelmonkey1
Oct 18, 2011 Shovelmonkey1 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone who has not read it yet
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
A leader is one who, out of madness or goodness, volunteers to take upon himself the woe of the people. There are few men so foolish, hence the erratic quality of leadership in the world. John Updike said that, not me. I think he is probably right, although where the quote fits in alongside all the persons who currently have placed themselves upon political podiums and nominated themselves leaders (or had themselves nominated) is a little unclear.

One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest is an enduring p
...more
Mariel
Nov 29, 2007 Mariel rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: shut up I am dreaming
Recommended to Mariel by: the empty threats of little lord
I am scared of Nurse Ratched. I'm sure she'd make me feel insane, if I met her. At least I'd feel like I had a flat chest, for once. It's like standing next to someone shorter than my 5'5. I love feeling tall! What about hanging around with crazy people? Would I feel crazy too? Or would I feel more sane? (The first one.)

Randall did the wrong thing. He'd have been out of jail. It's all a trap. Probation, mental asylums. They should just do their time and have done with it. (The system is set up t
...more
Becky
Jul 08, 2011 Becky rated it really liked it
If it hadn't been for my friend wanting to read this with me, it's probably one of those books that would have sat on my shelf for years and years before I ever got around to reading it. I'd seen the movie years ago, but I didn't remember much of it other than the fact that it took place in a mental ward and Jack Nicholson was in it being loud and wreaking havoc. And, like the prude I totally am, I don't like reading books about drug culture, or recklessness and chicanery, or just chaos in gener ...more
Vit Babenco
Jan 20, 2014 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“…a guy has to learn to get along in a group before he'll be able to function in a normal society; how the group can help the guy by showing him where he's out of place; how society is what decides who's sane and who isn't, so you got to measure up.”
Are you different from the others? Then we’ll correct you, make you fit and suit.
“…people will force you one way or the other, into doing what they think you should do, or into just being mule-stubborn and doing the opposite out of spite.”
Society str
...more
Barry Pierce
I enjoyed this way more than I expected. It's a really great story, full of fascinating characters and insights. Whereas what actually happens in the book may not be the most fun subject matter, Kesey writes this novel with subtle humour and bouts of tragedy. The ending will linger in my mind of many weeks I feel.
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American writer, who gained world fame with his novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962, filmed 1975). In the 1960s, Kesey became a counterculture hero and a guru of psychedelic drugs with Timothy Leary. Kesey has been called the Pied Piper, who changed the beat generation into the hippie movement.

Ken Kesey was born in La Junta, CO, and brought up in Eugene, OR. Kesey spent his early years hun
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More about Ken Kesey...

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“Man, when you lose your laugh you lose your footing.” 2216 likes
“All I know is this: nobody's very big in the first place, and it looks to me like everybody spends their whole life tearing everybody else down.” 574 likes
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