Brooke's Reviews > Sybil: The Classic True Story of a Woman Possessed by Sixteen Personalities

Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber
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Oct 02, 07

Recommended for: anybody who is interested in the mysteries of the human mind
Read in November, 2005

Another old book review from my blog:

This was one seriously fucked up book. I have never seen the movie but, of course, knew what I was in for when I got the book. The name "Sybil" is very well known, and carries some stigma, in pop culture.
However, I had no concept of the extent or the perversity of Sybil's mother's abuse which had been the prime instigation for Sybil's dissociations. When I was reading the sections describing what she had done to her daughter, I was literally beating my head with the book and saying "That's so fucked up!" out loud. (Good thing there was nobody around to hear me except for Magnum).

As far as writing style, I wouldn't say it was the best. A little too clinical in the language, and a little lacking in the dramatic elements. I am sure this is mostly due to the fact that the author (Flora Rheta Schreiber) was a psychiatrist, and this was one of her first (only?) novels. Not to mention that most of the conversations in the book were probably transcribed from tapes.

But despite slightly distracting writing quality imperfections, this book was completely absorbing. The more I got to know about Sybil and the strange ways her unconscious had devised to help her cope with her abusive childhood, the more I felt like I was losing my own mind. It was strange, to ponder upon the potential psychoses that our brains/minds are capable of. It seems that no matter how normal we might tell ourselves we are, there are so many things we can't remember....so many events in our childhoods that can only be known through other people telling us...it's frightening to wonder where those memories are, and if there is some unconscious self lying beneath our conscious personality that is hoarding those memories from us, or, from a different perspective, is protecting those memories...and yet they are inaccessible to our waking self.

These are the kind of things I found myself thinking about on the bus, or walking down the street, while reading this book. Also, it was my first step away from sci fi/fantasy in some time, and it opened my mind up to new knowledge of psychology and psychoanalysis that I found fascinating and plenty of food for thought.

I would recommend this book to anybody who is interested in the mysteries of the human mind.
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message 1: by Ken (new)

Ken Just one note about the author -- she actually was not a psychiatrist, she was a journalist with no background in psychiatry. (At least that's what I read in Wikipedia yesterday!) Maybe that's part of why the writing seems the way it does, since she didn't ordinarily write full-length books like that. Not sure. But thanks for the review, I'm looking forward to reading this book!


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