Psychiatric Tales by Darryl Cunningham

Rating: *** (3 out of 5)

Review: I got this book as a birthday gift from two dear friends of mine. We share many interests, and the workings of the human mind is one of them, so they figured this book would be a good match for me.

It’s a good premise. The author spent a few years working as a health care assistant in a psychiatric hospital and draws on his experiences to tell short stories about mental illnesses. Unfortunately, I didn’t like it as much I thought I would. I was hoping for an insightful look into this fascinating, often misunderstood world, but I felt that all the stories were superficial, with the exception of the author’s own tale (the last story in the book). Many of the “stories” didn’t even feel like stories at all, more like a textbook description with pictures accompanying it. I couldn’t understand the constant mention of how people need to be more open-minded and tolerant towards mental illness. What’s the point of saying that to a reader who is interested enough to try this book?

I can definitely see a heavy influence from Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood“, both in graphic qualities and narrative, but this book lacks the profoundity and poignance that “Persepolis” has. Moreover, sometimes I felt like the drawings didn’t even need to be there at all.

However, there were some positive points. The author’s story was powerfully told (made me wish that the rest of the book was like that) and some of the personal stories of the patients he mentions are genuinely strange and interesting.

This is an ok book, and it’s fairly interesting, but I do wish it dared to go deeper.


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