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Theguardian 1 week, 3 days ago

Case Study by Graeme Macrae Burnet review – unstable identities

This wry look at 1960s counterculture focuses on an enfant terrible of the anti-psychiatry movement to explore the gaps between appearance and reality The Booker-shortlisted 2015 novel His Bloody Project employed a range of narrative techniques to prod at the truth surrounding a murder in a 19th-century Scottish crofting community. Graeme Macrae Burnet’s concern was not so much with who committed the crime – we know that from the outset – but with the moral ambiguity inherent in assigning blame. His new novel, Case Study, is different in tone, though an interest in exploring complex psychological dramas through intricate narrative structures takes centre stage once again. One of the key voices in His Bloody Project belongs to the prison doctor, charged with determining whether the accused is mentally fit to stand trial. The narrative spotlight in Case Study is focused on psychiatry itself, and how those who practise it are not always best qualified to pass judgment on the sanity or otherwise of those they purport to treat. The novel presents itself as the work of one “GMB”, a writer who has become interested in Collins Braithwaite, enfant terrible of the 1960s anti-psychiatry movement. After stumbling on Braithwaite’s “salacious, iconoclastic and compelling” collection of case studies, Untherapy, in a Glasgow bookshop, GMB toys with the idea of writing his biography. Although the plan meets with little enthusiasm from his agent and publisher, GMB’s fascination with Braithwaite is redoubled when he is contacted by a Mr Martin Grey, offering him six notebooks containing the journal of his cousin, whom Grey claims was a patient of Braithwaite. The notebooks contain “certain allegations” he is sure GMB will find of interest. Continue reading...

Case Study by Graeme Macrae Burnet review – unstable identities

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