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Synopsis

“[A work of] wit, wisdom and richness. . . . A grand tour of derangement, from matricide to anorexia.” —John Leonard, Harper’s

This fascinating history of mind doctors and their patients probes the ways in which madness, badness, and sadness have been understood over the last two centuries. Lisa Appignanesi charts a story from the days when the mad were considered possessed to our own century when the official psychiatric manual lists some 350 mental disorders. Women play a key role here, both as patients—among them Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, and Marilyn Monroe—and as therapists. Controversially, Appignanesi argues that women have significantly changed the nature of mind-doctoring, but in the process they have also inadvertently highlighted new patterns of illness.

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