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Inferno: A Memoir Reviews

Inferno: A Memoir by Catherine Cho

Inferno: A Memoir

Catherine Cho

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2 reviews

Imprint: Bloomsbury Circus
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Publication date: 19 Mar 2020
ISBN: 9781526619082

'Completely devastating. Completely heartbreaking. Written in luminous, spiralling prose' Daisy Johnson, author of Everything Under My psychosis, for all its destruction and wrath, was a love story

5 stars out of 5
Lara Feigel
19 Mar 2020

"a brilliantly frightening memoir"

Inferno is a brilliantly frightening memoir about Cho’s two weeks on the psychiatric ward, elegantly interwoven with tales from her past. We hear about her childhood, raised by Korean parents in an austerely silent American home, where Cho had to protect her brother from her father’s violent rages. We hear about her relationship with a near-murderous boyfriend, and then about her courtship with James, whose kindness promised to erase the past. There’s no easy cause and effect here, no suggestion that past trauma causes the psychotic breakdown. But the past experiences resonate, and in fleeing her vulnerable son Cho also flees her own vulnerable younger self...  the real strength of the book is its revelations about motherhood and mental illness. Running through her psychosis is fear about herself as a mother. She fears for her baby and that she will forget she’s a mother altogether. These are common anxieties, and one of the book’s most compelling suggestions is that even ordinary motherhood resembles psychosis. The sense of being outside time, the terror of being responsible for another life, the feeling that the word “mother” defines us and yet remains dissociated from much of our mental life

Reviews

4 stars out of 5
7 Mar 2020

"(a) striking story of motherhood and psychosis "

One of the many fascinating things about this beautifully written book is that it asks us to consider what counts as normal behaviour and what doesn’t. The hinge moment that sees Cho’s transformation, at the age of 31, from an anxious new mum into a patient in a psychiatric facility with a diagnosis of post-partum psychosis is when she looks at Cato and see that his eyes have turned into devils’ eyes: “Dark eyes with flashing red pupils.”