Glasshouse: Morwenna Blackwood

This is a sequel to “The (D)Evolution of Us”, a dark and harrowing novel about a set of damaged individuals who are trying to claw their way up each precarious step in their lives: some with success, some not so much. In Devo, their relationship with social services and mental health providers is only fleetingly referred to – it’s their domestic situation that has the main focus. In Glasshouse, Blackwood flips the spotlight on the providers; in this case a psychiatric facility and the doctors who work there.

It’s their judgements that are supposed to make the difference in people’s lives, judgements they arrive at by dint of their training, their wisdom, their CODE. So what happens when they discover themselves to be as emotional, dysfunctional, and even as violent as the people they are supposed to be looking after?

This is the nub of GLASSHOUSE. It’s a difficult novel in many respects, since some of the main characters are hard to like – it goes with the territory, I guess. Personally, I’m not a massive fan of multiple POVs. I find it disconcerting to be pulled away from characters just as I’m getting a handle on them. But they work really well here, because the overarching context is mental illness – by definition it’s hard to get close to people whose relationship with the world is … off. I grew to appreciate the way the narrative(s) accentuated the disjointedness of the characters’ experiences and, as the plot unfolds and we see the proclivities and complexities of ‘those in charge’, well, it became difficult to differentiate between patient and doctor.

On a personal note, I found the novel completely compelling. If you were to read Blackwood’s bio, it is clear she has some experience of depression – I think, essentially, this is an ‘insider’s’ tale. What she has to say about how depression and anxiety works, again, from the INSIDE, has allowed me to understand those close to me with similar issues, so thank you for that.

God forbid, I should end up like her main characters … throwing stones in my own Glass House.

They’re doctors. But can you trust them?

Now if I carry out this oath, and break it not, may I gain for ever reputation among all men for my life and for my art; but if I break it and forswear myself, may the opposite befall me.
~ from the Hippocratic Oath (translated by WHS Jones)

Psychiatrists, Drs Whittle and Grosvenor, have dedicated their lives to helping their patients, but their approach, and the complications it reveals, lead them into relationships that harm not only themselves. 

As their lives entangle, both men find that doing no harm is not as cut-and-dried as they perceived.

Can the patients in their care really trust them? Or are more sinister motives at work?

Delve into the dark world of psychiatric institutions where doctors and residents play a dangerous game where no one is infallible!

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