"At first I looked at Henry's schizophrenia as a disease which either would or would not to be cured. But everything to do with Henry's illness appears to be more fluid and less predictable to me now than it once did. Today I see it more as a disorder of the mind, which is very difficult to eliminate but can perhaps be confined to a corner of Henry's mind and will no longer be the driving force in his personality and his actions that it once was."Henry's Demons: Living with Schizophrenia, A Father and Son's Story by Patrick Cockburn and Henry Cockburn is exactly what the byline says, a shared memoir taking place over the last decade as one young man struggled with an incredibly powerful mental illness. Henry's Demons is told in chapters of alternating perspectives, including one shared chapter and one chapter which contains a significant excerpt from the journal of Henry's mother Jan.
It is significant that Patrick's name comes first on the cover, as this is firstly a story told from a father's perspective. Far more of the book is told from Patrick's viewpoint.He is a journalist and the writing is often concise but unemotional. Henry's Demons becomes full of both anecdotes- which are kinda interesting though not directly related to the story- and scientific statistics and quotes, despite the fact that Patrick himself writes that many apparently hard facts about schizophrenia are dubious. As somebody in the scientific field myself I can appreciate the value of "hard" evidence, but when reading a memoir what I am looking for is the emotional and personal experience, not a lot of lists about how many people suffer from schizophrenia and how underfunded and misunderstood the disease is compared to physical ailments.
I appreciated the value of Patrick's chapters mainly because they gave context to what Henry has written. As somebody who is still gravely impacted by his mental illness, Henry is able to give incredible insight into the condition and how the world seems to him- not looking back on and reflecting on its absurdity but often still being unaware of where the real world ends and his schizophrenia begins. Henry's chapters are vivid and slightly painful to read, and throughout the memoir the reader cannot help but wish there was something to do to help him, some easy way to save him. But of course there is not. Ultimately, Henry's Demons, provides a scary and real reminder of the fact that despite how far humans have come, despite how many physical ailments are now preventable and curable, there still remains the genuine mystery of the human mind.
Release Date: February 1, 2011
Source: E-galley from publisher
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