Book Club September 2021

This month we read Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker. Set in post-war America, this is the true story of the Galvin family and their twelve children (ten boys and two girls), six of whom develop schizophrenia. From diaries and extensive interviews, Kolker tells the story from the different viewpoints of the mother and a number of the children. This is interwoven with chapters on the slow evolution of the science around the disease and the on-going debates of nature versus nurture and drugs versus therapy.

Kolker tells the story with compassion, never sensationalising the terrible events within the family, including violence and abuse, nor the denial by the parents. Obviously, this is a sad story and it was shocking to realise how little was known even 50 years ago, with electric shock treatment, institutionalisation and suppressant drugs the norm. However, there was also hope, both from the love and kind deeds of many of the characters and the from the tenacious pursuit of the science by some researchers. The group were all glad to have read the book.

Our future reading list is as follows:

Oct      A Respectable Trade                         Philippa Gregory

Nov     How We Disappeared                        Jing-Jing Lee

Dec      The Last Bookshop in London            Madeline Martin

Jan       The Final Round                                 Bernard O’Keeffe

Feb      The Lowland                                       Jhumpa Lahiri