any good fiction books on mental health

(65 Posts)
NotYoMomma Mon 28-Oct-13 15:26:22


I have been really interested recently in psychology and mental health, both historically, fictionally, and in real life.

books I have found interesting are 'the interpretation of murder' - I loved reading about freud and Jung in a fictional sense

and 'the ghost road' by pat barker - I enjoyed reading about shell shock back in the day (the equivalent of ptsd?)

I loved K-Pax (the whole trilogy!) and found it utterly utterly fascinating.

does anyone have any other recommendations for me please?

Portlligat Mon 28-Oct-13 15:58:43

How about Before I go to Sleep by SJ Watson. It's a debut novel and has reviews into the thousands on Amazon. It's a thriller and the story revolves around a woman who has suffered some sort of trauma. Every day when she wakes up she has no memory of where she is, doesn't recognise her husband and doesn't understand why she seems to have aged 15 years.

Apparently this is a possible, though rare, condition and the book seems well researched, though I'm no expert. I thoroughly enjoyed it and am drumming my fingers awaiting SJ's next offering.

InsultingBadger Mon 28-Oct-13 16:02:08

The Woman Who Went To Bed For A Year - loved it!

headoverheels Mon 28-Oct-13 16:14:20

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

My favourite Pat Barker book is Regeneration. It's fantastic.

Have you read The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath? I enjoyed that as well.

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks is fascinating but the character's mental health and the reasons for it do become quite outrageous.

X-post Head grin

PoisonousCentipede Mon 28-Oct-13 16:22:55

The Trick is to Keep Breathing - Janice Galloway

leezl Mon 28-Oct-13 16:24:17

The whole Regeneration trilogy is fantastic - my favourite books ever.
The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry.
Can't think on any more right now gah!

PoisonousCentipede Mon 28-Oct-13 16:26:23

Oh if you enjoyed Interpretation of Murder you might enjoy the brilliant Alienist by Caleb Carr.

Yes to The Bell Jar. I liked the first of the Regeneration trilogy, but loathed the other two - the second was especially bad.

Frank Tallis' Max Lieberman books might interest you, although they get very samey after the first couple.

Jane Eyre for Mrs Rochester maybe?

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenedes

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (good except for the stupid ending imho)

Fight Club

The Catcher In The Rye


Stephen King - Misery

Oh and just remembered One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Leopoldina Mon 28-Oct-13 16:33:51

Hangover Square - Patrick Hamilton is a very bleak look into schizophrenia (when I read it I actually thought it was alcoholism and booze induced blackouts, but read around it afterwards). Bloody good novel.

And Jeckyll and Hyde, of course

And does Mrs Danvers in Rebecca count?

ButThereAgain Mon 28-Oct-13 16:40:33

The Butcher Boy, by Patrick McCabe

Tender is the Night, FS Fitzgerald

yy to The Bell Jar, with the warning that it is such a raw depiction of mental ill-health that it is as disturbing and unredeeming as watching someone self-harm.

Crime and Punishment

Cremolafoam Mon 28-Oct-13 16:49:48

quite a good list here
Was going to suggest The Curious Incident of The dog in the nighttime
By Mark Haddon

tumbletumble Mon 28-Oct-13 16:51:50

Girl, Interrupted is a book as well as a film

highlandcoo Mon 28-Oct-13 17:03:53

Human Traces by Sebastian Faulks - one of his less well-known books - is interesting re the early treatment of psychiatric illness. Only a small part of the book, but the moving depiction of someone realising they are in the early stages of dementia really sticks in my mind.

highlandcoo Mon 28-Oct-13 17:05:56

Oh, and An Angel at my Table by Janet Frame is also very good.

Human Traces goes on for ever and ever and ever and ever though. It should have been something I'd love - but it wasn't. sad

runningonwillpower Mon 28-Oct-13 17:09:37

I've just read 'Talking to the Dead'.

The protagonist has a rare condition which I can't explain without a 'spoiler'.

This is a fictional crime novel and should be read as such but it did make for a very interesting lead character.

ButThereAgain Mon 28-Oct-13 17:15:18

Oh, yes! I'd forgotten about the whole series of Janet Frame autobiographical novels. I absolutely hated her by the time I read them all, but I can't quite remember why now. Was it because she kind of identified her mental illness with her creativity in a way that seemed rather self-aggrandising, and almost like she had created a version of herself as mentally ill in order to satisfy a certain image of what it was to be creative/poetic. Did she do that? It was a long time ago that I read them.

valiumredhead Mon 28-Oct-13 19:06:14

Ruby Wax's new book is meant to be very good.

Rebecca definitely counts imo and the Bell Jar is amazing.

CoteDAzur Tue 29-Oct-13 15:04:12

I wouldn't count Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time under mental health, since that boy is not mentally ill.

I thought Interpretation Of Murder was quite weak. Did you know that it's author is married to "Tiger mum" Amy Chua?

For a meatier, more challenging look into the mind of mentally disturbed, try:

Umbrella - Will Self (very difficult but intellectually satisfying)
The Atrocity Exhibition - J G Ballard (disturbing and brilliant, best I have read on mental health)

Hobbes8 Tue 29-Oct-13 15:11:14

Prozac Nation, which is a memoir rather than fiction I think, but I enjoyed it.

Agree with the Bell Jar, and what about some Virginia Woolf?

Hobbes8 Tue 29-Oct-13 15:15:52

Ooh and I've just remembered The Yellow Wallpaper, which is a fantastic story/novella. Charlotte something something - I forget.

PinkFairyArmadillo Tue 29-Oct-13 15:16:14

Lisey's Story by Stephen King

Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood is very good - talking about the mother's mental health from the perspective of her daughter.

Takver Tue 29-Oct-13 16:33:28

I'd second The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

Not fiction, but 'Girl, Interrupted' is well worth reading.

The Yellow Wallpaper is superb.

Digestive28 Tue 29-Oct-13 18:23:17

There is a website... (I think, may have to google it but it is very similar to that!). I met someone who ran it as part of a research project at a conference and think it's quite good. It gives a whole list of mental health fiction books, but what is useful is it has extracts and reviews so helpful before you buy. They are often looking for new reviewers to volunteer.

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Hannah Green is on my bookshelf waiting to be read. I believe it is about a girl with schizophrenia and the delusions she has.

Scarred by Sophie Andrews (the head of the Samaritans) is one if the most harrowing reads I have ever struggled through. That said I couldn't put it down and will never forget it.

SinisterSal Wed 30-Oct-13 11:16:30

Wally Lamb is quite good as I recall.

I know This Much Is True deals with severe schizophrenia and the impact on the patient's family including on their mental health.

She's Come Undone deals with eating disorders and depressive disorders.

Both very compassionate towards everyone involved

headoverheels Wed 30-Oct-13 19:50:56

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides - one of the characters is a manic depressive.

Also The Heart Shaped Bullet by Kathryn Flett - not fiction, but an account of the breakdown of her marriage (which includes a mental breakdown) which I found fascinating.

LEMisafucker Wed 30-Oct-13 19:57:18

Marking place - some interesting ones on here

Sebastian Faulks wrote a brilliant story about schizophrenia - Human TRaces.

Have just finished "the psychopath test" can't remember who it was by but i'll leave you to decide if its about mental "illness" it was an eye opener!

Cotedazuer I have downloaded Umbrella, i forgot i had it on there, i gave up in the first chapter, its a bit of a stream of conciousness thing and i struggled with it. I did like "My Idea of Fun" by will self though - disturbing!

Definately some interesting reads on here - I am interested as i suffer from anxiety/depression but i also find the mind an interesting place to explore.

Not fiction but this was v interesting.

LEMisafucker Wed 30-Oct-13 19:59:09

Oh yes, and i forgot "girl interrupted" i don't know how becuase it was brilliant and i read it in one sitting - partly because my hours commute turned into a four hour slog due to some idiot putting a shopping trolley on the tracks smile I got to finnish my book - result smile

neolara Wed 30-Oct-13 20:00:06

"Girl interrupted" was good.

colafrosties Wed 30-Oct-13 23:19:04

The Centre of Winter by Marya Hornbacher

Ahardyfool Wed 30-Oct-13 23:22:48

Second Wally lamb suggestion. Also, 'A Spot of Bother' by mark haddon

skolastica Fri 01-Nov-13 13:51:59

Susan Howatch 'Starbridge' series - very very good on the mind/religion/spirituality thing. Some of it is like being in a counselling session.

TheWanderingUterus Fri 01-Nov-13 14:32:28

Antonia White - Beyond the Glass. I can't see if anyone else has suggested that, but its very good

I can suggest lots of non-fiction (doing a phd in women/madness) if you are interested but all the fiction I was going to suggest has been suggested, pretty much.

Stevie77 Fri 01-Nov-13 14:51:16

Sebastian Faulks' Engelby and Sister by Rosamund Lupton

BasketzatDawn Fri 01-Nov-13 17:32:12

Poppy Shakespeare - by Clare Allan
Alastair Campbell's All in the Mind
Marian Keyes' recent novel The Mystery of Mercy Close has depression as a theme
Her baking book is good too - includes bits on depression - Saved by Baking

BasketzatDawn Fri 01-Nov-13 17:36:06

And Sylvia Brownrigg's novel The Delivery Room has a therapist as the main character, with Balkans war as background, so a bit of trauma there too.

CircassianLeyla Sun 03-Nov-13 11:33:29

The WanderingUterus - I am doing my dissertation on women and feeble mindedness and would be extremely interested in your recommendations.

TheWanderingUterus Sun 03-Nov-13 12:25:26

Related to women and mental/physical health:

Mad, bad and sad by Lis Appignanesi
Hysteria by Andrew Scull
The female Malady by Elaine Showalter
Women and Madness by Phyllis Chesler
Hot flushes, cold science by Louise Foxcroft
The technology of Orgasm by Maines
A history of women's bodies by Shorter
Agnes's Jacket by Hornstein
Freud on women by Elizabeth young-Bruehl
Nymphomania by groneman
Menstruation and psychoanalysis by Lupton
Medical muses by hustvedt (although she misses out the whole sex side of hysteria it is a good read)
Women of the asylum by Geller and Harris
The curse by Delaney et al is a good introduction to menstrual madnesses.

Madness in general

From paralysis to fatigue by shorter
The lives they left behind by Darby Penney
Presumed curable by Gale and Howard
Asylum bound by Townsend
Gentle asylum by Andersen
Gracefully insane by beam
Inconvenient people by wise
Customers of the mad trade by scull
Psychiatry for the rich by MacKenzie
Psychiatry for the poor by Hunter and Macalpine
Bedlam by Arnold (I think) is very readable.

The Showalter and Apignanesi are the best general ones IMO. Apologies about lack of capitals etc, did it on my Ipad in a rush. Would love to hear more about your dissertation Circassian.

CircassianLeyla Sun 03-Nov-13 12:39:07

Oh super thanks. Don't want to hijack but loosely it is about early 20 century infanticide in Britain. I can't click in your name to PM. Would be delighted to hear about your research too.

NotYoMomma Sun 03-Nov-13 12:48:32

this is really cool smile thank you so much for the recommendations! the non fiction suggestions look intriguing too so I will definatley have a look at those too!

SarahAndFuck Sun 03-Nov-13 13:16:57

True Things About Me by Deborah Kay Davies.

I was sent this to review in 2010 and remember it as being quite good, but with some pretty grim sex scenes later on.

A Kind of Intimacy by Jenn Ashworth.

I've read this several times now and no matter how often I do read it I find it has a slow build up that's worth waiting for.

Wilkie Collins is good on this too - The Woman In White is the obvious one, but, 'Man and Wife' has an interesting 'minor' character, with MH issues.

comeonbishbosh Mon 04-Nov-13 22:18:40

Notes on (from?) an exhibition by Patrick Gale. Excellent read, great plotting and characters, centres on the impact of the mother's mental illness.

MrFranklyShankly Tue 05-Nov-13 08:16:16

In the middle of the Medea complex, seems to be very good, historical fiction, very interesting.

Thewhingingdefective Tue 05-Nov-13 12:13:49

The Secret Sctripture by Sebastian Barry
The Wilderness by Samantha Harvey

fromparistoberlin Tue 05-Nov-13 16:04:00

The Boy with a Top Knot

on schizophrenia, very good book

MacaYoniandCheese Tue 05-Nov-13 16:08:38

Up From the Blue by Susan Henderson deals with parental depression.

Iaintdunnuffink Tue 05-Nov-13 21:48:49

I read one recently called The Shock of The Fall, would recommend it.


There's also the 1980's film which is also great but set later post Vietnam.

jerseygal78 Tue 05-Nov-13 22:43:43

I would second Shock of the Fall - Ive only read 5 books since dd1 was born 4 years ago (I used to get through 5a month) & I flew through this in days!

mimbleandlittlemy Thu 07-Nov-13 17:00:45

Just remembered The Queen of the Tamburine by Jane Gardam and Astonishing Splashes of Colour by Clare Morrall, both of which deal with mental health issues. Mark Haddon's A Spot of Bother is about a man having a nervous breakdown.

dozeydoris Fri 08-Nov-13 21:48:12

I loved Woman on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown: Life, Love and Talking it Through by Lorna Martin when I read it a few years ago. Though it isn't really fiction but is from her weekly columns in the Guardian, 'Conversations with my Therapist'.

Also the Examined Life by psychoanalyst Stephen Grosz, which was a book of the week on Radio 4, is interesting though, again, not fiction.

scottishmummy Fri 08-Nov-13 21:55:13

Trick is to keep breathing,Janice galloway

awaywego1 Sat 09-Nov-13 01:07:27

I read 'the shock of the fall' a few weeks ago and thought it was excellent. Have also just finished 'the view on the way down' which was readable but not as excellent.

gingganggooly Sat 09-Nov-13 15:02:25

I'm reading Nearest thing to crazy by elivabeth forbes

Feenie Sat 09-Nov-13 15:08:46

Still Alice - a really beautifully written book about a woman with Alzheimer's.

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