Inconvenient People by Sarah Wise
Lunacy, Liberty, and the Mad-Doctors in England

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Wise’s meticulously researched study adds a fresh perspective to current scholarship on insanity and offers a chilling reminder of “the stubborn unchangeability of many aspects of the lunacy issue.”
-Publishers Weekly

Synopsis

The phenomenon of false allegations of mental illness is as old as our first interactions as human beings. Every one of us has described some other person as crazy or insane, and most all of us have had periods, moments at least, of madness. But it took the confluence of the law and medical science, mad-doctors, alienists, priests and barristers, to raise the matter to a level of “science,” capable of being used by conniving relatives, “designing families” and scheming neighbors to destroy people who found themselves in the way, people whose removal could provide their survivors with money or property or other less frivolous benefits. Girl Interrupted in only a recent example. And reversing this sort of diagnosis and incarceration became increasingly more difficult, as even the most temperate attempt to leave these “homes” or “hospitals” was deemed “crazy.” Kept in a madhouse, one became a little mad, as Jack Nicholson and Ken Kesey explain in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest.

In this sadly terrifying, emotionally moving, and occasionally hilarious book, twelve cases of contested lunacy are offered as examples of the shifting arguments regarding what constituted sanity and insanity. They offer unique insight into the fears of sexuality, inherited madness, greed and fraud, until public feeling shifted and turned against the rising alienists who would challenge liberty and freedom of people who were perhaps simply “difficult,” but were turned into victims of this unscrupulous trade.

This fascinating book is filled with stories almost impossible to believe but wildly engaging, a book one will not soon forget.
 

About Sarah Wise

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Sarah Wise studied at Birkbeck College at the University of London. Her most recent book, The Blackest Streets was shortlisted for the Ondaatje Prize (2009) and her first book, The Italian Boy: Murder and Grave Robbery in London was shortlisted for the 2005 Samuel Johnson Prize and won the Crime Writer's Gold Dagger for nonfiction. She lives in London.
 
Published June 1, 2013 by Counterpoint. 498 pages
Genres: History, Law & Philosophy, Professional & Technical, Health, Fitness & Dieting, Travel. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Inconvenient People
All: 3 | Positive: 3 | Negative: 0

Guardian

Excellent
Reviewed by GrrlScientist on May 19 2014

This might seem morbid reading, but Wise's research is rigorous, her writing is lucid and witty, and this book is engaging, although disturbing. A must-read for those who work in the mental health industry, I think most people will find it both eye-opening and provocative.

Read Full Review of Inconvenient People: Lunacy, ... | See more reviews from Guardian

Publishers Weekly

Good
on Apr 08 2013

Wise’s meticulously researched study adds a fresh perspective to current scholarship on insanity and offers a chilling reminder of “the stubborn unchangeability of many aspects of the lunacy issue.”

Read Full Review of Inconvenient People: Lunacy, ... | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

WSJ online

Excellent
Reviewed by Charles Nicholl on Aug 23 2013

Ms. Wise delves deeply into her unsettling subject, finding bizarre humor in it as well as tragedy. A specialist in the sociology of Victorian low life, she extracts richly detailed material from the archives and animates it with great narrative flair.

Read Full Review of Inconvenient People: Lunacy, ... | See more reviews from WSJ online

Reader Rating for Inconvenient People
85%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 8 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


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