Review Blog

Aug 26 2009

Letters to Leonardo by Dee White

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Walker Books, 2009. ISBN 9781921150883.
This is a disturbing novel on many fronts. Matt's Mother, whom he believes to be dead, sends a birthday card on his fifteenth birthday. Matt is shocked and angry with his father for lying to him and he sets out to find his mother, whom he has not seen since he was five. Mum is bi polar and when on Lithium seems normal, but she believes she can't paint when on drugs and life becomes strange and unmanageable for Matt. The trauma is relieved by the wry comments of his best friend Troy and Matt's letters to Leonardo da Vinci break the flow of the narrative.
The book shows only one extreme end of the spectrum of bi polar and a horrifying and tragic one at that! I would be keen to know what psychologists would think appropriate in the area of mental illness for this age group. It's a frightening one-sided view, especially as this may be the reader's introduction to the illness. It is neither a healthy approach or a constructive discussion of an illness society is trying to discuss openly and helpfully. An adult, but passionate and beautifully written memoir about manic depression is An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison. A wonderfully uplifting read on the topic.
Sue Nosworthy

Editor's comment: Sue has a daughter with bi-polar who is under medication and is doing well.
Another review can be found here

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