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Henry's Demons

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  879 ratings  ·  95 reviews
An honest and harrowing dual memoir by a British journalist and his son, about the son's sudden descent into schizophrenia. It tells of Henry's steep descent into mental illness and of his father Patrick's journey towards understanding the changes it has wrought.
Paperback, 256 pages
Published December 8th 2011 by Simon & Schuster Ltd (first published February 1st 2011)
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3.66  · 
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 ·  879 ratings  ·  95 reviews

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Forgive me my reviews when they descend into stories. Sometimes a book brings back memories that illuminate one or other for me and since most of my reviews here and elsewhere are unread by anyone except me, I write them primarily for myself. I am wary of using real names as I have real-life friends and family in my list of friends, but sometimes it wouldn't make sense not to.

When I was a teenager, I lived in a shared house with a guy who was beautiful with blond shaggy hair, a lean body and was
Paul Bryant
Around 1990 my nephew had a psychotic episode. It was the culmination of a few weeks of increasingly eccentric behaviour. He grew up in a fairly happy-clappy Christian family (Baptist) but out of them all, it was my nephew who began to take Christianity completely seriously. He read the New Testament and it said

…him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men
Nov 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
This is probably the best book I have read on schizophrenia. I believe this is the book that says that pot can trigger this condition in the susceptible. I was so glad to hear him say this as most people today are just super ignorant about this fact. They just think that everyone can have some pot especially here in Colorado now. I even had my doctor offer it to me for pain.

I got off a few lists on Facebook that has "pushers". I get very mad about this. So I could rave and rant but a word to th
Aug 16, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Book was a bit slow. Patrick Cockburn seems unable to decide whether he was going to write a memoir or a mental illness education case study. What was truly powerful was his incorporation of Henry's own words and thoughts on his experience with schizophrenia. Patrick rightly observes in the Prologue that autobiographical memoirs on mental illness tend to be written by individuals after they've largely recovered, which naturally alters one's telling of an experience which is dramatically differen ...more
Marc Nash
Jun 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A father and son take turns to write chapters about family life as the son's schizophrenia gets progressively more problematic. The son's chapters are the most interesting in a way, as his chapters get fewer and fewer and more and more sparse on detail as he struggles to hold on to any vestige of self-control. The father plots us reliably through his son's symptoms and behaviours and does so with great dignity, calmness and love. If you wanted to know what schizophrenia might actually entail on ...more
Feb 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the books where I felt like it was a two or a four. I have developed a sort of endearment towards memoirs, mostly because I feel like the contents are... for a lack of better phrase, very human. Patrick's part of the memoir's I feel he intellectualized a bit much. I didn't get the emotional dynamics from his side of the story. Jan's journal inserted entries was the more enjoyable. There we see feelings such as resentment, frustration and humor required to deal with their situation. These ...more
Mar 07, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was surprised at how boring I actually found this book (I definitely have to echo others who have described it as dry and not very engaging). On the one hand, it was nice to read an account of a family that took it upon themselves to learn about a loved ones illness, that writes about caring for the person without bitterness while acknowledging how difficult and hurtful the experience can be, that knows a bit about the history of psychiatry. Of course some of that can be attributed to the book ...more
Jamal Hadjkura
Mar 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a very matter-of-fact book, but it is also an emotionally evocative one. It tells the story of Henry Cockburn (co-author) who is diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2002 at the age of 20 (while an art student in Brighton).

Much of the story is conveyed by Patrick Cockburn, Henry's father, in a considered documentary style. He interweaves explanatory details with narrative account, but what is immediately striking is how little any of the background information on schizophrenia contributes to
Randye Kaye
Henry's Demons is an insightful look into both the family experience when schizophrenia strikes a loved one, and into the U.K. System of care. As a parent in the United states, I couldn't help but compare Henry's experience (e.g. months at a time in the hospital) to my son Ben's story here in the United States, where it seems that every day the hospital must justify the stay to the insurance companies. I must admit, I was a bit jealous at first; yet, I don't see that Henry benefited much from hi ...more
Jun 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books on mental illness I have ever read, and I've read quite a few. Finding good ones on schizophrenia are rare and this book is amazing. It switches back and forth between the father's struggles dealing with the son's diagnosis and the son's own first hand account. Henry's accounts are amazing and provide such unique, first hand insight. The father's accounts are similarly interesting on the toll severe mental illness takes on a family and the grieving process he went through. ...more
Oct 12, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Interesting concept (the father and afflicted son writing alternating chapters concerning the mental illness), but poorly executed. The "history" portion of the book are meandering and do not follow a progressive time line, the authors often jump back to retell portions. Chapters written by the son are difficult to read and difficult to follow, and as the account progresses definitely detract from the overall work.

While reading, it is important to keep in mind that many chapters of the book were
Although occasionally a little slow and repetitive, this was an excellent account of one family's struggle with schizophrenia.
I liked that the chapters were interspersed with Henry's own experiences, both when he was very ill and when he was more lucid, as this provided some real insight into what living with schizophrenia can actually feel like.
One can only come away feeling nothing but sympathy for sufferers and those close to them, particularly when treatment and prognosis for the condition
Peter Damien
Henry's portion of the book is enjoyable, Patrick's (the father) sections alternate between useful and overly self-absorbed. Plus he comes equipped with what I think of as Standard Old White Man Opinions. (Raymond chandler, better than trash like Agatha Christie; rap music is self-absorbed doggerel and no good; etc)
Apr 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
so accurately describes emotions around a family member receiving a mental health diagnosis, the shock waves radiate on forever....
Apr 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Tough but so glad I read it
Susan Burke
Mar 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"A new picture of schizophrenia has begun to emerge over the last ten years, portraying it as having a series of causes rather than one single cause. There is undoubtedly a large genetic component. However, it appears that it is not the creation of a dominant gene but of a significant number of less powerful genes which interact with one another and with environmental factors. The genes do not cause schizophrenia but come into play when they are triggered by events. In other words, possession of ...more
Rossa Forbes
Oct 26, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has two great strengths. It's a compelling read about schizophrenia seen from the point of view of both father and son, and it demonstrates that reliance on mainstream psychiatry and medications makes recovery extremely difficult. I very much doubt that Patrick Cockburn (father of Henry) intended to make the second argument, especially about the medications, but it comes across loud and clear to someone like me who has been through the same kinds of experiences with my own son. This bo ...more
Oct 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book! I have read a lot of memoirs about mental illness and I thought this one was very unique in the way that it was cowritten by both someone struggling directly with schizophrenia, and from the perspective of a parent of someone with schizophrenia. I feel that the book really gives you the sense of the struggles of both authors in coming to terms with this illness. Easy to read and informative.
Toby Bond
Sep 16, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book offers both an insider's and a family's experience of mental illness and how greviously they were impacted. One story, multiple perceptions of what the stark reality is of living with an unsound mind. Henry's excerpts interlaced with those of his father and mother made for powerful reading.
Jun 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
H. D. rang so very true to me. 1. The absolute frustration of his father when over 7 years or so nothing worked. 2. How Henry lived a life that was as real to him as anybody else’s. 3. The extremes that Henry went to in order to sabotage his own treatments. 4. The common threads between Henry’s schizophrenia and my personal experiences with it.
Jennifer LCF
Honest and raw, this is a real account of what it's like living with schizophrenia, both from the perspective of the afflicted and his family. In both cases, the pain, confusion, and anxiety is palpable.
It's always hard to rate someone's life story.
This is a raw book about diagnosis, treatment and failings. It is well written and you end up wanting to give everyone involved a big hug for all their trouble.
Oct 24, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Jul 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A quick, good read for all writers. You will feel buoyed and validated in Goldberg’s hands.
Sonja Hill
Oct 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Most interesting book I’ve read this year.
Mistydawn Thrash
Aug 08, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was hard for me to read. Not because I fear mental illness. Not because Schizophrenia is a topic I can not digest. It was because the writing style was so dry that I felt as though I was reading Henry's medical reports and not a memoir of father and son. When picking up the book I had thought it would be an emotional account of father and son fighting demons together. In reality, it more of a step by step account, written in dry style with very little to leave this reader emotionally a ...more
Cole Roussos
Henry's Demons: Living with Schizophrenia, A Father and Son's Story is exactly what the title states. Henry Cockburn came from a well rounded family with a younger brother, a loving father, and a loving mother. As a child he was a high achiever and impressed his parents and teachers. His father, Patrick Cockburn, was a journalists and would be in different countries for long periods of time. Even though Patrick was not around a lot, Henry still had a strong bond with his father. In Henry's firs ...more
Blethering Books
Jun 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Amazing. Breathtaking. Frank. Emotional. Frightening. Facinating. Informative. Exciting. Everything really.

I loved this book and I have read a lot of non-fiction books about people’s experiences of mental illness and frankly this is the best in the long long list that I have read!

This novel is written by both Henry and his father Patrick, starting with Patrick receiving that life changing phone call from his wife telling him that their eldest son was in a psychiatric ward. Here Patrick takes us
Amanda Green
I read this book in 2011

This is a combined story of a father and son’s experience of schizophrenia – the son has it, and writes about his experiences of it, and his father narrates most of the book, from his side of the experience, as a concerned Father. He feels he has a unique book in this sense, as it is two sided, but this has been done before. Very well written, yet easy to read for the masses, it unfolds the boys life story within the family unit – a family with an interesting and unusual
Whistlers Mom
Sep 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most haunting memorable books I've ever read and I read 250 - 300 books per year. I read a library copy of this one in 2011 and I can't count how many times since I have thought or talked about it. Patrick Cockburn's beautiful, sad, terrifying story of his son's descent into mental illness would be a compelling book by itself. Interspersed with Henry's account of his illness and it's effect on his life, it packs an emotional punch that stays with the reader for a long time.

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Patrick Oliver Cockburn is an Irish journalist who has been a Middle East correspondent since 1979 for the Financial Times and, presently, The Independent.

He has written four books on Iraq's recent history. He won the Martha Gellhorn Prize in 2005, the James Cameron Prize in 2006 and the Orwell Prize for Journalism in 2009.