Thursday, December 11, 2014

Conversion by Katherine Howe

I've always been fascinated but by what used to be called hysteria and now is called conversion disorder ( It's a kind of collective delusion. Some people think that's what was happening during the Salem witch trials. But there are many other examples of schoolchildren, often girls, falling ill with a sickness that later turns out to be all in their heads (

I remember hearing about the real-life case this book is based on and reading every article I could get my hands on just trying to get to the bottom of it. When I heard there was a novel written on the subject I couldn't wait to read it. And I finally got my chance today. Unfortunately, and perhaps inevitably, the book didn't live up to my expectations.

This is one of those cases where the real story is so interesting that any fictionalized version would just be a shadow. The narrative is juxtaposed with a parallel narrative taking place during the Salem witch trials. This element seems a little bit too on the nose.

But the subject itself is still fascinating and I admire the author’s effort to make sense of it.

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