In this absorbing and scholarly book, Allan Ropper and Brian Burrell home in on Charcot’s strange shows as the seminal moment when psychiatry and neurology split and began their journeys along separate but intertwining paths towards a partial convergence today... The questions Burrell and Ropper raise are as intriguing as their answers. How do we distinguish between brain and mind? And which mind do we mean: our accumulation of experiences or the way we process them? It’s a complex and convoluted story but one made highly readable and hugely entertaining by this authoritative book.
For all the intriguing stories and fairly fluid style, this book is a difficult read. Every few paragraphs it makes a fresh start, with a new character, at a different point in history. These points are not always in chronological order. So we have: “In 1912, six years into his infection, Adrian Leverkühn’s tertiary stage syphilis . . .” Then two pages later: “Had Thomas Mann not become a writer . . .” Three paragraphs on: “In 1884, a year before Sigmund Freud set off for Paris . . .” At about the tenth of these jump-starts you begin to panic. Will these threads be picked up again? Many will not. At about the 20th the very symptoms the authors describe start to set in. Confusion, detachment, headache.