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Review: Rowan the Strange by Julie Hearn

Rowan the Strange by Julie Hearn
Published by Oxford University Press
Challenge: BBC
Source Own copy (UK paperback)

Set at the start of the Second World War, Rowan the Strange shows what life is like in a mental asylum for a young boy who is diagnosed with schizophrenia. The treatments he receives are still experimental - and nobody predicts the effect they will have on him ...

This book wasn't at all what I was expecting.

The book follows the story of Rowan a young boy who is sent away by his family to a mental hospital because he is strange. During the course of the book you see how he is treated by the staff at the hospital, other patients and his family. It also has the nice touch of being set during the early part of World War Two.

The main reason I would recommend someone should read this is because it gives you real insight into how people with mental illness were treated and viewed during the 1940s. The treatments used are quite horrific and the way they are treated by other is at times appalling.

I loved the relationship between Rowan and Dorothea another hospital inmate. The dialogue between them was really funny and heartwarming at times and really heart breaking at other times.

The story also had another edge when looked at the German Doctor who worked at the hospital and his motivation for doing what he was doing. It touched on the T4 programme in Germany and ideas about the role of bystanders allowing such terrible things to happen.

All in all defiantely not the book I was expecting to read. A interesting read with many issues raised.


Probably not a book I'd normally pick up, but I do find myself very attracted to books about mental health. So thank you for the interesting review, I might just pick this one up!
Unknown said…
I have looked at this book a few times but I guess I've always been a little intimidated by the subject matter. I think writing about mental illness is always really brave. Definitely sounds educational.
I dont think I could read it as it is such a sensitive subject. Thanks for the great review and I really hope it helps people understand mental conditions a little bit better