Guest review by Pierre: THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN by Simon Winchester

This is my husband's review of this book.

The book begins with a fascinating scenario to hook the reader and then takes 80 pages of mediocre prose to inform the reader that it’s quite untrue. Well, not all untrue, but almost everything that is charming and startling in chapter one is gradually revealed to be apocryphal. One is tempted to excuse this journalistic deceit, however, because without it the story is unremittingly sad.

Mr. Winchester is not a bad writer, despite his breathless treatment of the subject and his forays into graveyards to look for headstones to compensate for the dearth of primary research sources. There is much padding. His treatment of peripheral subjects is dismal, and rather than entertaining vignettes we are served instead with incongruous whiplashes of clinical facts with no color, character or context. Mr. Winchester the journalist presumes to summarize the history of psychiatry, ostensibly to provide context but really to darken those awful white spaces on the page.

Finally, one cannot help noticing that Mr. Winchester’s wide-eyed and innocent treatment of his subject is a disingenuous slight of hand that serves to distract the reader from his sensationalistic methods. It is difficult to forgive his gratuitous introduction of salacious but completely unfounded gossip that is almost certainly untrue but serves to add a further layer of disgrace to the pathetic Dr. Minor.

As stated, this review was written by my husband, Pierre. He will also be doing another guest review of 'The Strain' in the near future. If this keeps up, he'll have to get his own blog!


Staci on March 1, 2009 at 7:25 PM said...

Great review but not a book that I would read I think....

Nadja on March 12, 2009 at 9:00 PM said...

Tell that husband of yours that it's time he stopped riding your blog-tails!


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