'Vivid, unforgettable . . . a fascinating, instructive, wise and compassionate book' John Banville
A leading psychiatrist shows how the mysteries of the brain are illuminated at the extremes of human experience
A twinge of sadness, a rush of love, a knot of loss, a whiff of regret. Memories have the power to move us, often when we least expect it, a sign of the complex neural process that continues in the background of our everyday lives. A process that shapes us: filtering the world around us, informing our behaviour and feeding our imagination.
As a practising psychiatrist, Veronica O'Keane has spent many years observing how memory and experience are interwoven. In this rich, fascinating exploration, she asks, among other things, why can memories feel so real? How are our sensations and perceptions connected with them? Why is place so important in memory? Are there such things as 'true' and 'false' memories? And, above all, what happens when the process of memory is disrupted by mental illness? Here O' Keane uses the broken memories of psychosis to illuminate the integrated human brain, offering a new way of thinking about our own personal experiences.
Drawing on the poignant stories of her patients and much more, from literature and fairy tales, O'Keane uses the latest neuroscientific research to reframe our understanding of the extraordinary puzzle that is the human brain; from birth through to adolescence and old age. This book is a testament to the courage - and suffering - of those who live with serious mental illness, showing how their experiences unlock everything we know and feel.
Vivid, unforgettable . . . a fascinating, instructive, wise and compassionate book . . . there is much for the reader to learn, but there is also a lot that is simply delightful. -- John Banville * Guardian * Wonderful. I love the way Veronica writes . . . difficult concepts made comprehensible with rich case studies. A must read for every counsellor, psychotherapist, life coach and psychiatrist. -- Philippa Perry * author of The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read * Searching, thoughtful . . . at once scientific, philosophical, medical and literary . . . rich, revelatory and, in the best way, unsettling. -- James McConnachie * Sunday Times * Fascinating . . . leaves you with a marvelling awareness of what humans collectively share as memory makers and reminds us that each one of us is a singular translator of our world. -- Kate Kellaway * Observer * A wonderful book in which Veronica O'Keane distils what she has learned about people in her life as a psychiatrist and neuroscientist. The reader will appreciate Dr O'Keane's beautiful prose and her caring attitudes, and will effortlessly pick up knowledge about how the brain determines our behaviour. -- Robin Murray * Professor of Psychiatric Research at King's College London * A roving, riverine inquiry into memory, experience, the brain...O'Keane does not try to dazzle us with interpretations and cures, but dazzle she does with the science, the clarity with which she can conjure something as ordinary, as bafflingly complex and beautiful, as a memory forming in the brain. . . O'Keane evokes a robin in her backyard with a vividness that would shame a good many novelists I've encountered this year -- Parul Seghal * New York Times * O'Keane draws from her clinical experiences to offer a comprehensive tour of the current state of knowledge about how memory operates in the brain . . . what makes O'Keane's book engaging is how she incorporates references to literature and folklore -- Elizabeth Landau * Salon *