Review: Radio Girl by David Dufty

Title: Radio Girl: The Story of the Extraordinary Mrs Mac, Pioneering Engineer and Wartime Legend

Author: David Dufty

Published: 28th April 2020, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read May 2020, courtesy Allen & Unwin

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My Thoughts:

Radio Girl by David Dufty is, as the tag line says, the story of the extraordinary Mrs Mac, pioneering engineer and wartime legend.

(Florence) Violet McKenzie née Wallace, who later came to be known affectionately to many as Mrs. Mac, was born in Melbourne in 1890, married in 1924, and died in 1982. While her childhood in Austinmeer, south of Sydney, was largely unremarkable she went on to make an outstanding contribution to Australian society over her lifetime.

Radio Girl is a fascinating tribute to an amazing woman who deserves far more recognition than she has ever been given. I was quickly absorbed in the tale of Mrs Mac’s life, inspired by all she achieved, and frankly annoyed that I’ve never heard of her.

Some of Violet’s many accomplishments included becoming Australia’s first woman to earn a diploma in electrical engineering, owning and operating a successful store, the ‘Wireless Shop’, catering to amateur radio enthusiasts, and establishing the Electrical Association for Women.

However Violet’s most significant achievement was her contribution to the war effort. In 1939 Mrs Mac, as she was by then commonly called, created the Women’s Emergency Signalling Corps, ultimately training around 3000 women in Morse code. She became the driving force behind the creation of the Women’s Royal Australian Navy Service in 1941, which employed as many as a third of ‘her girls’ during WWII, and also trained thousands of enlisted and civilian men, from more than half a dozen countries, in signalling.

Suitable for the general reader, as well as those with specific interest in Australian military history or womens history, Dufty’s narrative reads well, it’s detailed without being dry, and informal in tone. Progressing chronologically through Violet’s lifetime, Dufty includes a dozen or so photographs, which I always appreciate. While it is unfortunate though that Violet could not directly contribute to this biography as I‘d be interested in the addition of a more personal perspective, the story of the Radio Girl and her achievements is nevertheless fascinating.

Radio Girl is interesting and informative and I’d like to thank David Dufty for ensuring Mrs Mac, and her admirable accomplishments are recognised in the present day, and recorded for history.

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Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$29.99

Also available from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

2020 Nonfiction Reader Challenge: Monthly Spotlight #4

I’m delighted with the response to the inaugural Nonfiction Reader Challenge so far, and since sign-ups are open until December 1st, a few more may decide to join us during the year.

If you hadn’t yet noticed, I’ve created a permanent page for the challenge, you can CLICK HERE, or select the menu link at top left.

The NEW Linky to add your review to can be also be found there. This new linky will remain active for the rest for the year’s submissions. Look for the text in orange.

On the first Saturday of each month, I am highlighting a handful of Linky submissions, but I encourage you to support all participants who have shared what they have been reading for the challenge. Give them a like, leave them a comment, share their posts on twitter, Facebook or instagram #2020ReadNonFic

 

During APRIL…

 

 

Denise Newton found I Want You To Know I’m Still Here: My family, the Holocaust and my search for truth by Esther Safran Foer, to be a moving and thought-provoking, “exploration of what it means to survive, to make decisions about whether to walk away from the past, to learn about it or to silence it…”

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Stray Thoughts
highly recommends Off the Clock by Laura Vanderkam, she says, “I appreciated that Laura dealt in common-sense broad principles rather than a rigid system and that her examples came from home and family as well as work and career. This is a great book for learning how to “feel less busy while getting more done.”

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Maphead describes Black Wave: Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry That Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the Middle East by Kim Ghattas, as “outstanding”. They feel the author did a “superb job delivering the big picture with the perfect amount of detail” and may be their favourite non-fiction of 2020.

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Fake Law by The Secret Barrister writes, is the, ” distortion[s] of legal cases and judgments, spun and reformed for mass consumption.” It is evident everywhere, under every regime, and has a detrimental impact on the integrity of legal process, which is particularly noticeable in country’s where the judicial system is unduly influenced by political stakeholders. I, Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out, think this book offers a lot to explore, examine, and debate, and I’m happy to recommend you do.

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Do any of these interest you? What will you be reading in April?

Click here to see what else other participants have been reading!

 

In case you missed it….

2020 Nonfiction Reader Challenge: Monthly Spotlight #3

2020 Nonfiction Reader Challenge: Monthly Spotlight #2

2020 Nonfiction Reader Challenge: Monthly Spotlight #1

2020 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Recommendations Part 1 #Memoir #DisasterEvent #Social Science #Related to An Occupation

2020 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Recommendations Part 2 #History #Feminism #Psychology #Social Science

2020 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Recommendations Part 3 #Nature #True Crime #Science #Published in 2020

Review: Southern Cross Crime by Craig Sisterson

Title: Southern Cross Crime: The Pocket Essential Guide to the Crime Fiction, Film & TV of Australia and New Zealand

Author: Craig Sisterson

Published: April 23rd 2020, Oldcastle Books

Status: Read April 2020 courtesy Oldcastle Books/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

I excitedly leapt at the opportunity to explore Southern Cross Crime, a long overdue guide to the crime fiction, film and television of Australia and New Zealand. Written by Kiwi Craig Sisterson, whose blog Crime Watch I’ve been following for close to a decade, Southern Cross Crime presents a comprehensive listing of authors, movies and TV shows from the last quarter of a century, with the inaugural Ned Kelly Awards as his starting point.

In the first section of Southern Cross Crime, Sisterson introduces authors whose settings range across the cities, suburbs and rural areas of not only Australia and New Zealand, but also international locales from Antarctica to Iceland. Long being a fan of crime fiction, I expected to be familiar with all but a few of the authors introduced by Sisterson, but just a few pages in I had a list of three author’s names to look up, and eventually added dozens more based on his succinct and tantalising descriptions of their work. You’ll not only find reference in Southern Cross Crime to internationally renowned author’s such as Michael Robotham (who also provides the Foreward), Jane Harper and Paul Cleave, but many others that may have slipped under your radar, as they did mine.

In the past year I’ve binge watched Blue Heelers, Water Rats, Rush, Murder Call, City Homicide and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (and none for the first time), which are a handful of the television series highlighted in the second section of Southern Cross Crime exploring some of the Antipodean produced and set crime on-screen TV and film over the past 25 years. Sisterson provides a short synopsis for each series or film, many of which are available to watch on various streaming services for both local and international audiences. Of those Sisterson has not mentioned I’d like to recommend Harrow (2018 – ), a TV drama featuring forensic pathologist Dr. Daniel Harrow, played by Ioan Gruffudd, and Stingers (1998-2004) which chronicled the cases of a deep undercover unit of the Victoria police.

The final section of Southern Cross Crime features thirteen well-known crime fiction authors whom Sisterson has interviewed, or reported on, in the last decade or so. This includes Ned Kelly Lifetime Achievement Award winner Peter Corris, newcomer Emma Viskic, ‘The Kiwi Godfather’ Paul Thomas, and Sisters in Crime co-founder and President, Lindy Cameron. I very much enjoyed this section, learning a little more about the author’s I admire, and of whose work I have read.

I’ve been pleased to witness the growing popularity of Australian & New Zealand crime fiction over the last few years, and I’m thrilled that Craig Sisterson has taken the initiative to develop this essential guide which will further promote the genre both within our two countries, and on the international stage. Southern Cross Crime is a valuable and Illuminative resource for crime fiction fans everywhere.

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Southern Cross Crime is currently available as an ebook, with the publication of the paperback delayed because of Covid-19

To pre-order the print edition -available in September 2020

Oldcastle Books I Book Depository I Hive UK I via Booko

To purchase an ebook now

Oldcastle Books or your preferred retailer Amazon I Apple I Kobo

 

Review: Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell

Title: Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know

Author: Malcolm Gladwell

Published: April 30th 2020, Penguin UK

Status: Read April 2020 courtesy Penguin UK/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

“We think we can easily see into the hearts of others based on the flimsiest of clues. We jump at the chance to judge strangers. We would never do that to ourselves, of course. We are nuanced and complex and enigmatic. But the stranger is easy. If I can convince you of one thing in this book, let it be this: Strangers are not easy.”

In Talking to Strangers, Malcolm Gladwell, the author of five NewYork Times Bestseller non-fiction titles, explores the factors at play when we make judgements about who people are, and why our interactions with strangers so often leads to misunderstanding and conflict.

“We start by believing. And we stop believing only when our doubts and misgivings rise to the point where we can no longer explain them away.“

By default most humans afford each other some level of trust, we must in order to operate within society, the advantage to human beings, in assuming that strangers are truthful, results in efficient communication and social coordination, argues psychologist Tim Levine. He calls this the Truth-Default Theory and in Talking to Strangers, Gladwell examines how this instinctive behaviour shapes our interactions with others, why it matters, and what happens when we get it wrong.

“Transparency is the idea that people’s behavior and demeanor—the way they represent themselves on the outside—provides an authentic and reliable window into the way they feel on the inside.”

Most of us believe we know when someone is telling the truth, or being deceptive – that we can tell by a person’s behaviour, demeanour, or even their attractiveness. Statistically however our ability to determine someone’s truthfulness seems to be quite poor, particularly when there is a mismatch between behaviour and intent. Gladwell discusses how this applies by looking at relevant high profile cases involving people such as Bernie Madoff, and Amanda Knox.

“Coupling is the idea that behaviors are linked to very specific circumstances and conditions.”

Gladwell also introduces the idea that context has a greater influence on our interactions with strangers than often considered. I found this information interesting but I think he overlooked the obvious, and more relatable, aspects of this argument.

In fact there were several issues I thought would be relevant to the discussion in Talking To Strangers that Gladwell barely mentioned, if at all, particularly in terms of how interactions are influenced by conditions such as narcissism and anti-social disorders (which matter when you are talking about politicians), and the difference between how men and women judge strangers. In fact the perspective of this book feels overwhelmingly masculine even though the subject of the book was inspired by the death of a woman, Sandra Bland.

“But the requirement of humanity means that we have to tolerate an enormous amount of error. That is the paradox of talking to strangers. We need to talk to them. But we’re terrible at it…”

I wasn’t entirely convinced in regards to some of Gladwell’s analysis, but I found the narrative to be accessible and the subject thought-provoking. I know I will likely be more conscious of my thought process the next time I talk with a stranger.

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Available from Penguin UK

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Indiebound

Review: Fake Law by The Secret Barrister

Title: Fake Law: The Truth About Justice in the Age of Lies

Author: The Secret Barrister

Published: April 28th 2020, Picador

Status: Read April 2020 courtesy Pan Macmillan Au/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

 

I like to think I’m a critical thinker, I don’t just rely on the first page of google results for information, I never take Facebook posts or tweets at face value, and I’m sceptical of media headlines. In this day and age with information so freely available it should follow that the truth has no where to hide, but instead it increasingly feels as if truth is getting harder to find. It’s simplified to the point of meaninglessness by traditional media, ignored as inconvenient by politicians, twisted in favour of click bait tiles, and buried under social media pile-ons.

Nowhere is this more an issue than in the reporting on the law. “Fake Law”, the Secret Barrister writes, “[is the] distortion[s] of legal cases and judgments, spun and reformed for mass consumption.” Bias is implicit in communication, for which some allowances can be made, but a deliberate campaign to present misinformation as truth erodes society.

“Society only functions if we all abide by common, agreed rules. If we don’t understand our justice system, and if our comprehension is corrupted by misinformation, we can’t properly engage with arguments over its functioning. We can’t critically evaluate its performance, identify its flaws, propose sensible reform or even participate meaningfully in everyday conversation about the stories in the news. Our unfamiliarity also makes us vulnerable to those who would exploit the gaps in our knowledge to push ulterior agendas.”

The Secret Barrister supports his/her argument with examples from several different areas of law including Civil Compensation, Human Rights Law and Criminal Justice. He/she examines high profile cases to show how the media, politicians and/or special interest groups misunderstand or misinterpret the nuance of law. Sometimes this could be blamed on ignorance, the law is complicated and at times convoluted, but too often it is deliberately reframed in order to manipulate or inflame debate to suit an agenda, from oversimplifying the medical issues pertaining to a dying child, to selectively reporting the facts of a home invasion, or promoting ‘exceptional’ cases as the norm to justify capping insurance claim amounts or cutting the budget of Legal Aid.

“It is bizarre that, for a nation so clearly susceptible to suspicion of ulterior motive, we disengage our critical faculties and swallow blindly the propaganda of billion-pound insurance companies. We lie back and allow ourselves to be enveloped in misinformed resentment towards our suffering neighbours receiving restitution, viewing it as a sore on, rather than a credit to, a civilised society.”

I found the range of examples fascinating to read about, some of which I was familiar with, some not. The cases are specific to the UK and its legal system (which is similar enough to the Australia’s that I understand the generalities) but ‘fake law’ is not a phenomenon unique to the UK. It is evident everywhere, under every regime, and has already had an impact on the integrity of legal process, which is particularly noticeable in country’s where the judicial system is unduly influenced by political stakeholders. The law is not perfect, something The Secret Barrister willingly admits, but its principals are worth defending.

“If we lose judicial independence, we lose the rule of law. The day a judge makes a binding decision affecting the rights and liberties of one of us, not on the legal and factual merits, but with a nervous glance to the press and public galleries, or with a beady eye on political favour or punishment, is the day that the decay in our democracy turns terminal.”

I found The Secret Barrister’s narrative to be very readable, the tone personable and the information is presented in a logical and accessible manner. There is a lot to explore, examine, and debate in Fake Law, and I’m happy to recommend you do.

 

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Available from Pan Macmillan Au

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

2020 Nonfiction Reader Challenge: Monthly Spotlight #3

I’m delighted with the response to the inaugural Nonfiction Reader Challenge so far, and since sign-ups are open until December 1st, a few more may decide to join us during the year.

If you hadn’t yet noticed, I’ve created a permanent page for the challenge, you can CLICK HERE, or select the menu link at top left.

The current Linky to add your review to can be found there, and will accept links until April 30th. I plan to make a new Linky available per quarter.

On the first Saturday of each month, I will be highlighting a handful of Linky submissions, but I encourage you to support all participants who have sharedwhat they have been reading for the challenge.

During March…

 


DeniseNewtonWrites was impressed with Songspirals by the Guy’wu Group of Women. This book was written to promote an understanding of the Aboriginal Yolŋ people of North Arnhem Land (Northern Territory, Australia) – their culture, beliefs and connection to the land, particularly from the perspective of the Yolŋ women. 
Denise’s introduction to her review reads, “My heart was full as I read this unusual and generous book. When I had finished, I felt two things: humility and gratitude.”

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Prisoner of Tehran is the memoir of Marina Nemat. When sixteen year old Marina questioned the changes to her school’s curriculum in the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution, she was arrested and tortured, escaping a death sentence only by agreeing to marry one of her interrogators. Maphead says, “a sad book…[but a]…well-written account of a story that needs to be told.”

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Over at NovelMeals, Tina enjoyed reading her third book for the challenge, a memoir of John Glenn, best known as the first American astronaut to orbit the earth in 1962 on the Friendship 7. She summarises her review by writing, “I learned quite a bit about John Glenn, his war experiences, his love of flying, the space program and what a patriotic and ethical man he was”.

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Selected to satisfy the Medical Condition category by TheresaSmithWrites, I Choose Elena by Lucia Osborne-Crowley explores the relationship between trauma and it’s physical manifestation in the body. She writes, “most honest and heartbreaking books I have ever read.”

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Click here to see what else other participants have been reading!

Do any of these interest you? What will you be reading in April?

In case you missed it….

2020 Nonfiction Reader Challenge: Monthly Spotlight #2

2020 Nonfiction Reader Challenge: Monthly Spotlight #1

2020 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Recommendations Part 1 #Memoir #DisasterEvent #Social Science #Related to An Occupation

2020 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Recommendations Part 2 #History #Feminism #Psychology #Social Science

2020 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Recommendations Part 3 #Nature #True Crime #Science #Published in 2020

Review: Our House is On Fire by Malena and Beata Ernman, Svante and Greta Thunberg

 


Title: Our House is On Fire: Scenes of a Family and Planet in Crisis

Author: Malena Ernman, Beata Ernman, Svante Thunberg, Greta Thunberg

Published: March 5th 2020, Allen Lane

Read: March 2020 courtesy PenguinRandomHouse Au

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My Thoughts:

Our House Is On Fire was first published in August 2018, a few days before Greta Thunberg sat down outside the Swedish Parliament and began a solitary school strike to bring attention to the global climate crisis. However as a reprint, this particular edition includes an addendum of sorts.

It’s written with the cooperation of the entire family, Greta, her younger sister, Beata, and their father, Svante, but told through their mother’s, Marlena, perspective.

“We had to write about this because we are among those who got help. We got lucky and sometimes I think that we are going to come out of this strengthened. Strengthened and whole.”

The book has a dual focus, as the subtitle suggests. It explores the family’s struggle when first Greta, and then Beata are diagnosed with a raft of neurodevelopmental disorders, Asperger’s- a high functioning form of autism, and OCD – obsessive-compulsive disorder, among them. As the family attempts to reorder their lives, they become more attuned to the disorder of the wider world, which is highlighted by a combination of anecdotes, commentary, and statistics on a variety of issues from the climate crisis to #metoo.

It’s important to know that Greta is largely a bit player in this book, Marlena’s thoughts, emotions, and experiences dominate. She writes of her role as a mother, a wife, and as a successful opera singer, she shares her struggle to advocate for her daughters wellbeing, and her own. Marlena is as passionate as her daughter about the climate crisis, but also social injustice, and she isn’t shy about demanding change.

The book’s presentation is somewhat fragmented, with a nonlinear narrative, but I found I didn’t mind that. The tone can occasionally be a little strident, but to be fair it’s no less than we deserve.

No matter what conclusions you draw about the members of the Thunberg/Ernman family the message is important. Our House Is On Fire is a challenge to examine our way of life, to support and encourage change that benefits humanity. It is a call to arms, but not a ‘how-to’ manual. It’s a warning but also reason to hope.

“We still have a chance to put everything right, and there is nothing we as people can’t achieve, if only we want to.”

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Available from PenguinRandomHouse Australia

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Indiebound

Review: Truganini by Cassandra Pybus

Title: Truganini: Journey Through the Apocalypse

Author: Cassandra Pybus

Published: March 3rd 2020, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read March 2020 courtesy Allen & Unwin

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My Thoughts:

Inspired by her ancestors connection to the woman known as the ‘last Tasmanian Aborigine’, Truganini by Cassandra Pybus, is a stunning historical biography.

Born around 1812 on Bruny Island, Truganini survived the capture, forced relocation, attempted assimilation and sanctioned extermination of the First Nations population of Tasmania, before dying in 1876. Drawing on a number of historical sources, including personal journals, oral histories, government records, and newspaper archives, Pybus pieces together the story of Truganini’s extraordinary life.

Placed under the ‘protection’ of Christian missionary George Robinson as a teenager she was induced to behave as his emissary/guide aiding in his self-appointed task to ‘save’ the indigenous peoples, by leading them Into exile. She was to spend more than a decade with Robinson, accompanying him to ‘New Holland’, before fleeing his patronage, only to be accused of murder and be sent into exile on Flinders Island, and later Oyster Cove. Even in death she was denied self-determination, her wish to be cremated and her ashes spread over the D’Entrecasteaux Channel ignored for over a hundred years.

Honestly I have no words to communicate the deep sorrow I feel for the fate of Truganini and all of the indigenous peoples. This harrowing narrative reveals a spirited and courageous woman who suffered unimaginable losses – the annihilation of her country, her culture, her kin, and her identity. Pybus’s account is rendered with honesty and empathy, shedding light on the shameful history Australia is yet to reconcile.

Profound, poignant, and perceptive, Truganini should be required reading for all Australian’s to aid in our understanding of, and acknowledgement of, our past.

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Available from Allen & Unwin. RRP AUD $32.99

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository

2020 Nonfiction Reader Challenge: Monthly Spotlight #2

I’m delighted with the response to the inaugural Nonfiction Reader Challenge so far, and since sign-ups are open until December 1st, a few more may decide to join us during the year.

If you hadn’t yet noticed, I’ve created a permanent page for the challenge, you can CLICK HERE, or select the menu link at top left.

The current Linky to add your review to can be found there, and will accept links until March 30th. I plan to make a new Linky available per quarter.

On the first Saturday of each month, I will be highlighting a handful of Linky submissions, but I encourage you to support all participants who have sharedwhat they have been reading for the challenge.

During February:

 

Featured at The Bookstop is the graphic memoir, They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, co-written with Justin Eisinger and Steven Scott and illustrated by Harmony Becker. “This book gave me a new understanding of what he and so many other families went through, and how it shaped him as a person.”

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What I’ve Been Reading shares a review for A Woman in Berlin by Anonymous. The author is a woman who finds herself in East Germany at the mercy of the Russians post World War II. “Out of all the numerous World War 2 related books, this book stands out for the perspective it brings and its excellent prose. The book is grim and casts a cloud gloom on the reader, but this still remains a very important read.”

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Bookshelf Life recommends everybody reads We Should All Be Feminists By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a powerful and personal essay based on her 2013 TEDx Talk of the same name.

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All The Books I Can Read shares her thoughts on The Hunt For MH370 by Ean Higgins about an aviation disaster in which a plane with 239 people on board vanished over the Indian Ocean for reasons unknown. In her review she writes “This is a thoroughly researched piece of what is basically investigative journalism that seeks to examine the thought processes of potential scenarios and also critique the search and rescue efforts as well as the overall investigation itself.”

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Click here to see what else other participants have been reading!

Do any of these interest you? What will you be reading in March?

In case you missed it….

2020 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Recommendations Part 1 #Memoir #DisasterEvent #Social Science #Related to An Occupation

2020 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Recommendations Part 2 #History #Feminism #Psychology #Social Science

2020 Nonfiction Reader Challenge Recommendations Part 3 #Nature #True Crime #Science #Published in 2020

Review: The Great Pretender by Susannah Cahalan

Title: The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission that Changed our Understanding of Madness

Author: Susannah Cahalan

Published: February 2020, A&U Canongate

Status: Read February 2020 courtesy Allen & Unwin

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My Thoughts:

“No one can improve without the bare minimum—shelter, clothing, and food—but they also need care: intelligent medical intervention, personal contact, community, and meaning.”

If you ever developed a passing interest in psychology, you have likely learned about David Rosenhan’s watershed study published in 1973 “On Being Sane in Insane Places”. Rosenhan, a psychology (and law) professor at Stanford University, and eight other ordinary, well adjusted people faked symptoms of mental illness in order to be committed to mental asylums across America. Rosenhan was essentially looking to prove that psychiatry had no reliable way to tell the sane from the insane, and the results of the experiment appeared to confirm his theory.

The eight subjects (one having been excluded from the results), including Rosenhan, told the same story -they were hearing voices- and, all but one who was labelled with manic depression, were committed with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. The eight pseudopatients were then required to stay until they were medically released. The length of hospitalization, Rosenhan reported, ranged from seven to fifty-two days, with an average stay of nineteen days.

Rosenhan’s paper appeared to be a damning indictment of the psychiatric field, not only were these pseudopatients incorrectly diagnosed they were, by and large, subject to ill-treatment while in the ‘care’ of these institutions. “On Being Sane in Insane Places” became a major factor in changes to the psychiatric discipline going forward, contributing to public distrust of the field, the widespread closure of hospitals for the mentally insane, and the 1974 update of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

The author of The Great Pretender, Susannah Cahalan has herself made a major contribution to the discipline of psychiatry. At the age of 24 Susannah, a journalist, suddenly began exhibiting signs of acute mental illness, and was variously diagnosed with bipolar and schizoaffective disorders until a neurologist discovered that Susannah’s brain was under attack from a rare autoimmune disease resulting in her psychotic behaviours. Treatment of the disease resolved any sign of mental illness. Cahalan wrote about her ordeal in Brain on Fire (later adapted by Netflix as a feature film).

Cahalan’s experience of being wrongly diagnosed with a mental illness is what prompted her interest in Rosenhan’s study. Cahalan’s investigation and research appears meticulous and exhaustive but the results are disturbing. It seems likely that Rosenhan, was a ‘Great Pretender’ in that he manipulated and/or fabricated much of the data, and therefore the conclusions he presented in “On Being Sane in Insane Places”. I was convinced by Cahalan’s discoveries, and shocked by the implications of Rosenhan’s fraud.

“That’s where David Rosenhan and his paper come in. Rosenhan’s study, though only a sliver of the pie, fed into our worst instincts: For psychiatry, it bred embarrassment, which forced the embattled field to double down on certainty where none existed, misdirecting years of research, treatment, and care. For the rest of us, it gave us a narrative that sounded good, but had appalling effects on the day-to-day lives of people living with serious mental illness.”

While I remained absorbed in the story of The Great Pretender, I did think that Cahalan’s occasional sidestep into related, but not perhaps not particularly relevant, areas drew focus from the main narrative, though I did find them interesting in their own right.

I found The Great Pretender to be an accessible and compelling read. I imagine that the psychiatry field will not be pleased to learn that yet another ‘breakthrough’ thesis is probably fraudulent, and I’ll be curious to learn what, if any, effect this may have on the future of mental health care (and if Rosenhan’s study will be removed from textbooks).

“And this fraud, played out every day in our academic journals and our newspapers (or more likely our social media feeds), breeds an anti-science backlash born of distrust.”

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Available from Allen & Unwin

Or from your preferred retailer via Booko I Book Depository I Indiebound

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