The Great Pretender

The Great Pretender : The Undercover Mission that Changed our Understanding of Madness

3.68 (1,922 ratings by Goodreads)
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For centuries, doctors have struggled to define mental illness - how do you diagnose it, how do you treat it, how do you even know what it is? In search of an answer, in the 1970s a Stanford psychologist named David Rosenhan and seven other people - sane, normal, well-adjusted members of society - went undercover into asylums around America to test the legitimacy of psychiatry's labels. Forced to remain inside until they'd 'proven' themselves sane, all eight emerged with alarming diagnoses and even more troubling stories of their treatment. Rosenhan's watershed study broke open the field of psychiatry, closing down institutions and changing mental health diagnosis forever.

But, as Cahalan's explosive new research shows, very little in this saga is exactly as it seems. What really happened behind those closed asylum doors, and what does it mean for our understanding of mental illness today?
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Product details

  • Hardback | 400 pages
  • 144 x 220 x 36mm | 509g
  • Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Main
  • 1838851410
  • 9781838851415
  • 6,256

Review quote

People have asked me over the years: if they liked The Psychopath Test, what should they read next? I now have an answer. Susannah Cahalan's The Great Pretender is such an achievement. It's a wonderful look at the anti-psychiatry movement and a great adventure - gripping, investigative. It's destined to become a popular and important book -- JON RONSON Utterly compelling . . . important and spirited * * Observer * * A fascinating piece of detection . . . passionate [and] a warning against easy answers * * Sunday Times * * A vivid account . . . An impressive feat of investigative journalism - tenaciously conducted, appealingly written . . . as compelling as a detective novel * * Economist * * I wasn't really prepared for the story Cahalan ends up telling. That she discovered the truth about Rosenhan is a testimony to her dogged research. That this truth was inconvenient for her own outlook on psychiatry is a compliment to her integrity. She writes it all very well too, with clarity, economy and style * * The Times * * A well-crafted, gripping narrative that succeeds on many levels. Cahalan, who gained the trust of Rosenhan's family, is meticulous and sensitive in her research; compelling and insightful in her writing. She accurately conveys the troubles that have haunted psychiatry over the past half-century . . . her book, which I hope wins awards, has immense value as a historical account * * Financial Times * * Brilliant detective work . . . fascinating * * Guardian * * The Great Pretender recounts the remarkable investigation that [Cahalan] undertook. The book reads like a fascinating real-life detective story . . . Exposing what [Rosenhan] got up to is a quite exceptional accomplishment, and Cahalan recounts the story vividly and with great skill * * Spectator * * Cahalan tells this whole story not simply with dramatic flair but also with the passion of a former patient whose own misdiagnosis . . . almost resulted in her death * * Times Literary Supplement * * A gripping work of detection * * Daily Mail * *
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About Susannah Cahalan

Susannah Cahalan is the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, a memoir about her struggle with a rare autoimmune disease of the brain. She lives in Brooklyn.

@scahalan |
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Rating details

1,922 ratings
3.68 out of 5 stars
5 20% (385)
4 41% (788)
3 29% (556)
2 7% (142)
1 3% (51)
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