Friday, January 28, 2011

Henry's Demons by Patrick Cockburn and Henry Cockburn

"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
Pages: 256
Overall: 3/5
Source: E-galley from publisher
Buy the Book


  1. Wow. Great review. The book sounds like a tough read but interesting.

    Michelle V

  2. I have suffered from this disease for the past 20 years.I have spent more time in hospital wards than I choose to remember. I also am under a C.T.O forcing me to take my zyprexa and epilum. my husband bought me Henry's Demons thinking I might like it. At the start you say that it is a story from both of you. There is hardly nothing of Henry's point of view??? I have read it in the past 3 days. To me, you obviously STILL have no idea about henry and Schizophrenia. The book is more about yourself and how "great you have been in your career achievements"?? It has simply made me angry, and how do you expect the world to understand when you right this through your eyes only. did you do any investigation apart from the wars and tragedity overseas?? It seems you have more time for the lost indervidual overseas suffering than your own family!!! Shame on you!!!

  3. I bloged here badly afew days ago. I just wanted to say i am sorry. this book is so raw for me as it is SOOO close to the truth and it shows that most people don't understand and everyones journey is different, but, it rings true that even those closest to us don't understand, so how can we expect the world to understand? I don't even understand, because what I think today changes tommorrow. I am sorry for belittling you. and thankyou for trying to help us that suffer.I live in Australia, but schizophrenia is the same no matter where you live. xo

  4. @ Geoff- while I appreciate your emotional comments I think you misunderstand this site, this is simply a review of the memoir, I am not the writer I am just writing my thoughts on the book after reading it. In fact, in my review in fact I agree with what you said, I say exactly "this is firstly a story told from a father's perspective" so I am wondering if you actually read my blog or just google the book and decided to comment here? I am quite confused by your comments in that regard.


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