Star Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Some authors are on my ‘radar’ as I like to think of it. When I see a book by them, I walk towards it, I pick it up and I’m more likely to buy it. These authors aren’t necessarily on my list of favorite authors, but they are one’s I will indulge in. Matt Haig wasn’t on my radar, but this book has put him firmly on it.
The reason I’m pointing out this ‘reading radar’ is because I have come across Matt Haig before, but it wasn’t until I picked up this book and looked at the ‘Also by Matt Haig’ list of books that I realised. I have picked up his book The Radleys at least three times in my local bookshop. I’ve looked at the cover, I’ve read the blurb, and I’ve put it down again. When I think of the name ‘Radley’ I think of Boo Radley, the character from To Kill a Mockingbird. I thought that this book would be a story based on them, or an authors take on TKAM from the Radleys point of view (is this a good idea or not? Has it been done?) but it is actually about a family of vampires (I think).
My point is, after discovering this little gem of a book, I’m more inclined to read his other works, and I think I might just have to buy ‘The Radleys’ and read it after all my previous deliberation over it.
Okay, here’s my review:
“Thirteen years ago I knew this couldn’t happen.”
As someone who suffers on and off with anxiety, I wanted to read this as an insight into mental health from someone else’s perspective. As Haig himself states in this book: ‘people do not all have the same precise experience’ (p.4) of mental health issues. Haig talks mostly about depression and anxiety. I don’t suffer from depression and so I don’t know what it is like to have it, never mind having it alongside panic and anxiety, but this book is brilliant in the way it allows readers of all experiences to understand a lot better how the illness affects people who suffer from it.
From the get-go Haig brings up the subject of stigma, and how it is particularly damaging to people with depression because ‘stigma affects thoughts and depression is a disease of thoughts’ (p. 2) and he tells his story alongside educating the reader in ways which I believe will go a long way to battling stigma. He combines facts with witty but accurate sections that show us how depression is portrayed. At one point, I let out a slight chuckle because Haig opens our eyes to what seem like ongoing and age-old issues in a humorous way, but with a serious message at it’s core.
His writing dips in and out of his personal experience with depression and anxiety, and the shorter sections are ones that we can return to time and time again as a little reminder. In the acknowledgements section, Haig highlights the ‘genre-straddling’ nature of the book, listing three in particular: Memoir, Self-Help and Overview. I think this variety is what makes the book an entertaining, easy-going, educational and beautifully nuanced piece of literature.
One of my favourite things about this book is Haig’s love of books. He mentions books that he’s read, and includes a specific and carefully chosen quote from whatever book/author he discusses. At the end, there’s a ‘Further Reading’ section which is a summary of books that he has mentioned, or books that he recommends reading.
I was pleasantly surprised to find a ‘Seeking help for a mental health problem’ section, which finishes with a ‘Useful Contacts’ page. It fills me with hope that someone reading the book who needs to seek help will do so.
People need to read this. It has definitely changed my perspective and understanding of depression for the better.
Now, all that’s left is to read his other books!
“You are walking around with your head on fire and no one can see the flames.”
“I wrote this because the oldest clichés remain the truest. Time heals. The tunnel does have light at the end of it, even if we aren’t able to see it. And there’s a two-for-one offer on clouds and silver linings. Words, just sometimes, can set you free.”
“[I]f you find it hard enough to let your self be free, your self breaks in, flooding your mind in an attempt to drown all those failed half-versions of you.”
“The trick is to befriend depression and anxiety. To be thankful for them, because then you can deal with them a whole lot better.”
Link to the book on Goodreads: