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Sarah's Library

I read pretty much anything, from fantasy (City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett) to romance (Bared to You by Sylvia Day) to classics (Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad).  The only genres I don't read are self-help and comic books/graphic novels.

Currently reading

The Last Honeytrap
Louise Lee
Progress: 100/346 pages
Complete Works of William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare

Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber

Sybil - Flora Rheta Schreiber

10/8 - I have been wanting to read this for nearly two decades, since I first heard about the 'case' when I was 12 or 13. In those intervening 18 years I've seen the Sally Field movie and learned the truth behind this story, but I'm still fascinated by the idea of true DID and even if I have to treat it as a fictional account of DID I'm excited to start reading it tonight. To be continued...


Later - The fraudulent nature of this book aside, the writing is annoying the hell out of me - it's way too flowery. In the preface Schreiber talks about her other publications, most of which are psychiatry journal articles (and the like), and it's plain to see that this was her first full length novel. She knows she needs to engage the reading public, who aren't her normal audience of fellow doctors, and she knows she can't do that with the dry language of a medical journal. Unfortunately she goes way too far in her attempt to not be dry. Sentences like

"The key to room 1113 was the engine that drove her, the motor on which her panic turned."


She was ready to go wherever the bus would take her, anywhere, everywhere, world beyond, world without end - anywhere."

smack of trying too hard. I mean what on earth does "...world beyond, world without end..." mean in he context of the situation Sybil has found herself in (she's 'woken up' in an unknown city with no idea how she got there, she walks for ages through deserted streets till finally finding a bus which she gets on figuring it'll take her towards civilisation)? I can suspend my sense of injustice at what the patient was coerced into believing, but I'm not sure I can suspend my annoyance with the writing at the same time.

As I said before, I've wanted to read this for ages and it's a gigantic disappointment to be feeling this negatively verbose only nine pages in (not counting numerous pages of preface). I feel like this is where Multiple Personality Disorder, now Dissociative Identity Disorder, became known to the wider public. Despite being revealed to be fake this book brought a real, though in truth very rare, disorder out of the stuff of myths and legends, something of a silver lining (in that despite none of this book being true, the disorder was no longer completely unheard of) for real suffers. To be continued...


12/8 - On page 45 - Why do we care that her bra is tiny? And if there's a good reason for knowing this inconsequential fact, why isn't it followed up with more information relating to the size of her bra? I don't know, I just found the fact that Schreiber took the time to comment on such a silly little thing strange.

13/8 - This book seems to have a DID of its own. The first chapter was the immature child who tried too hard for affection (using stupid, nonsensical, flowery phrases in a medical true story, pseudo or not, doesn't endear the reading public), but from the second chapter on (where Schreiber begins to detail Sybil's experience with Dr Wilbur from the beginning) we've been reading from a much more assured and confident writer.

The idea that you could experience an emotional moment at the funeral of a loved one, and then wake up at school two years later is terrifying. I can't imagine what that would have been like for a sufferer who actually went through something similar. I don't know how anyone could go through that alone without any understanding of what was happening, without believing that they had truly gone crazy. To be continued...


14/8 - The atrocities that are described here, that were perpetrated on Sybil, are beyond belief, beyond my imagining. The description of the cold water enema was very disturbing. If you haven't got a strong tolerance for unsanitised descriptions of extreme child (and I mean toddler) abuse there are a couple of chapters you should definitely skip - 14 and 15 will not be good for your mental health. All I can say is I hope to God Wilbur didn't hypnotise 'Sybil' into believing this happened to her (if indeed, none of this story is true. The thought that a patient might be 'given' these memories because the doctor didn't know what she was doing and was over-eager at the possibility of discovering a 'modern' sufferer of DID, makes me sick.

Every time Schreiber writes about what Dr Wilbur was thinking after a session with Sybil I can clearly hear Wilbur's excitement at exploring the personalities, being successful in her treatment of Sybil, becoming world famous as the psychoanalyst who 'cured' the most extreme case of DID ever documented. Every time I imagine her I see her eyes with dollar signs spinning in them, like in the cartoons. I don't see her as doing any of this altruistically (despite her claim of feeling like a friend towards Sybil during their trip to the country), she just wants to publish journal articles on the fascinating case of 'Sybil'. To be continued...