Jim's Reviews > 98 Reasons For Being

98 Reasons For Being by Clare Dudman
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Sep 19, 09

Recommended to Jim by: The author
Recommended for: Anyone interested in the history of psychotherapy
Read in September, 2009, read count: 1

The book has an interesting structure, 31 chapters – each opening with an historical document – that detail the admission and treatment of a young Jewish woman, Hannah Meyer (a fictitious character) by Dr Heinrich Hoffmann (an historical figure) followed by a postscript, a letter written by a father to his son seventeen years after the events recounted in the book. This manages to tie what could have been an open-ended storyline together for although Hannah's treatment comes to an end, there are still those other patients that Clare weaves into the narrative whose fates we never learn and there is also much about the doctor left unresolved.

Throughout the book we learn a great deal about 19th century attitudes towards the mentally ill. Early on in the book one of the orderlies, Angelika, has been told to arrange for Hannah to have an ice bath. The instructions say that the water should be tepid before beginning but it was a rule she routinely chose to disregard regarding "it as an unnecessary indulgence. The mad cannot feel the cold: this is a view widely shared by the assistants in the asylum, and as far as Angelika is concerned it is an undeniable fact."

You can read a detailed review of the book on my blog here.


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