In a Victorian-era German asylum, seamstress Agnes Richter painstakingly stitched a mysterious autobiographical text into every inch of the jacket she created from her institutional uniform. Despite every attempt to silence them, hundreds of other patients have managed to get their stories out, at least in disguised form. Today, in a vibrant underground net-work of "psychiatric survivor groups" all over the world, patients work together to unravel the mysteries of madness and help one another re-cover. Optimistic, courageous, and surprising, Agnes's Jacket takes us from a code-cracking bunker during World War II to the church basements and treatment centers where a whole new way of understanding the mind has begun to take form. A vast gulf exists between the way medicine explains psychiatric illness and the experiences of those who suffer. Hornstein's luminous work helps us bridge that gulf, guiding us through the inner lives of those diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar illness, depression, and paranoia and emerging with nothing less than a new model for understanding one another and ourselves.More
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At one point, late in the book, Hornstein eulogises "feminist" writing as non hierarchical, but having several centres. I frequently wondered what was the point? To parody, I was cycling through the market square in Cambridge. The flower seller waved at in my direction. Did she see me? Was she as preoccuppied with Agnes Jacket as I was? Would she have been as sanctimonious as me if she could have spoken to me in words, instead of waving? Would she have asked as many rhetorical questions? Was the florist even relevant to the point I was making? We will never know.
John's story weaved the mystic and the insane so closely, it reminded me of Icarus. Peter's and Nicky's stories were harrowing in their own way
Gavin has only two accents; Felicity Pippinsworth from plummy London or Hamish McTavish, a half drunk Scottish man doing shady deals in West Belfast. Both are preposterous. When not doing accents, her insistent inflections at teh end of every sentence are faintly condescending.
I would have cut out all autobiographical ramblings, all repetition, and credited the reader with some intelligence.
Some well made points, but seven hours of my life I will never get back.