Current AffairsThe Sleeping Beauties by Suzanne O’Sullivan

The Sleeping Beauties by Suzanne O’Sullivan

Sometimes, I just *need* non-fiction. And whilst there’s always been a very specific kind of novel that truly speaks to me, I’m probably more open-minded when it comes to books of the more factual variety. Generally speaking, it’s not so much about the topic, but rather about it being a book that I can learn something from that is written in an engaging and compelling way.

The Sleeping Beauties by Suzanne O’Sullivan was all this and more — not only did I feel that it gave my brain a good workout (which in the midst of school holidays and therefore an inordinate amount of Peppa Pig, was very welcome indeed), but it was also *so* brilliantly accessible. 

The book opens with the ‘mystery illness’ of Sweden — that is, the 169 children in the country who have fallen into a slumber and not woken up, sometimes for years. They remain in their homes, with nothing that appears medically wrong with them — but still, they are fast asleep. All are the children of asylum seekers, a fact that led prize-winning neurologist O’Sullivan to further explore the external factors that shape the experiences of patients. 

She travels across the world to do this, engaging with the inner sanctums of communities who have experienced illnesses of this kind — to Kazakhstan, Cubs, Guyana and New York. What was once deemed to be ‘hysteria’ is now referred to more commonly as functional neurological disorder (FND) and it is through this lens that O’Sullivan shines a light on so much more than the illnesses themselves; rather, she illuminates the entire way in which we look at medicine — diagnoses and the labels we put on a person’s sickness, commercialisation, treatment options
and, perhaps most importantly, the impact of our diverse cultures. 

The Sleeping Beauties handles a complex and important topic with such humility and sensitivity. As someone with no scientific background whatsoever, I can honestly say that I found it completely fascinating and I highly recommend it. Thank you @picadorbooks for our copy.

~ Sophie 

P.S. kisses to my sil @dezra18 who is a physio working in this area.

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