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Its landscaped ground, chosen by Frederick Law Olmsted and dotted with Tudor mansions, could belong to a New England prep school. There are no fences, no guards, no locked gates. But McLean Hospital is a mental institution-one of the most famous, most elite, and once most luxurious in America. McLean "alumni" include Olmsted himself, Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, James Tayl Its landscaped ground, chosen by Frederick Law Olmsted and dotted with Tudor mansions, could belong to a New England prep school. There are no fences, no guards, no locked gates. But McLean Hospital is a mental institution-one of the most famous, most elite, and once most luxurious in America. McLean "alumni" include Olmsted himself, Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, James Taylor and Ray Charles, as well as (more secretly) other notables from among the rich and famous. In its "golden age," McLean provided as genteel an environment for the treatment of mental illness as one could imagine. But the golden age is over, and a downsized, downscale McLean-despite its affiliation with Harvard University-is struggling to stay afloat. Gracefully Insane, by Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam, is a fascinating and emotional biography of McLean Hospital from its founding in 1817 through today. It is filled with stories about patients and doctors: the Ralph Waldo Emerson prot'g' whose brilliance disappeared along with his madness; Anne Sexton's poetry seminar, and many more. The story of McLean is also the story of the hopes and failures of psychology and psychotherapy; of the evolution of attitudes about mental illness, of approaches to treatment, and of the economic pressures that are making McLean-and other institutions like it-relics of a bygone age. This is a compelling and often oddly poignant reading for fans of books like Plath's The Bell Jar and Susanna Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted (both inspired by their author's stays at McLean) and for anyone interested in the history of medicine or psychotherapy, or the social history of New England.


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Its landscaped ground, chosen by Frederick Law Olmsted and dotted with Tudor mansions, could belong to a New England prep school. There are no fences, no guards, no locked gates. But McLean Hospital is a mental institution-one of the most famous, most elite, and once most luxurious in America. McLean "alumni" include Olmsted himself, Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, James Tayl Its landscaped ground, chosen by Frederick Law Olmsted and dotted with Tudor mansions, could belong to a New England prep school. There are no fences, no guards, no locked gates. But McLean Hospital is a mental institution-one of the most famous, most elite, and once most luxurious in America. McLean "alumni" include Olmsted himself, Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, James Taylor and Ray Charles, as well as (more secretly) other notables from among the rich and famous. In its "golden age," McLean provided as genteel an environment for the treatment of mental illness as one could imagine. But the golden age is over, and a downsized, downscale McLean-despite its affiliation with Harvard University-is struggling to stay afloat. Gracefully Insane, by Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam, is a fascinating and emotional biography of McLean Hospital from its founding in 1817 through today. It is filled with stories about patients and doctors: the Ralph Waldo Emerson prot'g' whose brilliance disappeared along with his madness; Anne Sexton's poetry seminar, and many more. The story of McLean is also the story of the hopes and failures of psychology and psychotherapy; of the evolution of attitudes about mental illness, of approaches to treatment, and of the economic pressures that are making McLean-and other institutions like it-relics of a bygone age. This is a compelling and often oddly poignant reading for fans of books like Plath's The Bell Jar and Susanna Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted (both inspired by their author's stays at McLean) and for anyone interested in the history of medicine or psychotherapy, or the social history of New England.

30 review for Gracefully Insane: The Rise and Fall of America's Premier Mental Hospital

  1. 4 out of 5

    Videoclimber(AKA)MTsLilSis

    I just couldn't get into this book. I was expecting more about what went on at the hospital. I wanted to know about how the patients were treated and what happened to them. This book was not about that. Most of the book was about the hospital building itself and its location and how it changed throughout time. There were a few small mentions of who stayed there, but not enough to hold my interest. I guess this could be of interest to those who want to know about hospital buildings, but don't loo I just couldn't get into this book. I was expecting more about what went on at the hospital. I wanted to know about how the patients were treated and what happened to them. This book was not about that. Most of the book was about the hospital building itself and its location and how it changed throughout time. There were a few small mentions of who stayed there, but not enough to hold my interest. I guess this could be of interest to those who want to know about hospital buildings, but don't look here for patient treatment, because you won't find it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    What I liked best about this book is that Alex Beam does not simply mock the wealthy, upper-class persons who were the patients at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts. Instead, he places these patients' and doctors' lives into a social and historical context. The result is a compassionate and generally respectful look at patients' suffering and struggle to overcome mental illness. He includes sections on Anne Sexton, Robert Lowell, and James Taylor (the pop singer).

  3. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    It took me over three months to read this book! To be honest it may have to do with the fact that I was also reading several other books at the same time. Anyhow being from Boston made this book extra special for me since this is the location for that famous McLean Mental Hospital. The rich history of the facility and the treatment of mental health was fascinating. I also found some of the famous patients like Sylvia Plath and the Taylor (James, Livingston, and Kate) family to be very interestin It took me over three months to read this book! To be honest it may have to do with the fact that I was also reading several other books at the same time. Anyhow being from Boston made this book extra special for me since this is the location for that famous McLean Mental Hospital. The rich history of the facility and the treatment of mental health was fascinating. I also found some of the famous patients like Sylvia Plath and the Taylor (James, Livingston, and Kate) family to be very interesting, Having read Girl Interrupted and seen most of the movie gave me a very vivid image of what McLean Hospital looked like on the inside and out. Susanna Kaysen's troubled years at McLean Hospital were the basis for writing about her experiences while at McLeans. Maybe it is my curiosity for mental health disorders that made this book so fascinating for me but I think not everyone would feel the same. I have heard some reviews in which people called Beam's writing nothing more then name-dropping-gossip, I happen to disagree. Working in health care I have learned a lot about mental health and the stories contained in this book and others like it help to take away some of the stigmatisms related to mental health while exploring the difficulties of treating it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kirsten

    The story of McLean hospital, one of the most famous mental hospitals in the US. Sometimes it seems as though anyone who's anyone spent time in McLean; throughout the 20th century it was famous for catering to the rich and famous with the utmost discretion. Among its "alumni" are poet Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath (who based her novel The Bell Jar on her experiences there), James Taylor and his siblings, Susanna Kaysen (who wrote about her experiences in Girl, Interrupted), John Nash, and Ray Char The story of McLean hospital, one of the most famous mental hospitals in the US. Sometimes it seems as though anyone who's anyone spent time in McLean; throughout the 20th century it was famous for catering to the rich and famous with the utmost discretion. Among its "alumni" are poet Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath (who based her novel The Bell Jar on her experiences there), James Taylor and his siblings, Susanna Kaysen (who wrote about her experiences in Girl, Interrupted), John Nash, and Ray Charles, just to name a few. In many ways, the history of McLean is the history of the last century of mental health care, although McLean as whole has been a kinder, gentler place than most mental hospitals. There are still stories of brutal, though well-intentioned, treatments: insulin shock therapy, icy hydrotherapy, electroshock therapy (with much higher levels of electricy than today's electroconvulsive therapy). Only a handful of lobotomies were ever performed at McLean, however, and the main emphasis was on milieu therapy -- the theory that providing structure and a relaxed, comfortable environment would go farther to help patients than any invasive procedure. Of course, the milieu therapy led to a lot of long-term residents at McLean. In the heydey of psychoanalysis, the intake period was 40 days -- the actual treatment usually didn't start for weeks. This kind of treatment has fallen by the wayside in recent years, as health insurance and rising healthcare costs make it impossible for patients to afford more than the usual five day stay, and in turn, McLean is now a ghost of what it once was. It's easy to feel sort of nostalgic for the "old days" of psychotherapy, particularly since insurance and an overloaded system mean that many patients are diagnosed, given drugs, and only receive a very limited amount of talk therapy, if any at all. On the other hand, there's little evidence that McLean's milieu therapy was any more effective than the current methods, particularly in the case of psychotic patients. Still, one wishes somewhat for a happy medium -- no six month hospital stays, but enough time to offer a little caring and patience. As this book makes clear, however, this luxury was only ever available to the very rich, even when it was considered the best treatment for what ails you.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Cameron

    After watching a television show depicting ghost hunters in an "insane asylum" I found my curiosity increased about the history behind some of these institutions. By far, this is the book I enjoyed reading the most. The author focuses on the McLean hospital, part of the Harvard medical system and a temporary home to some of the rich and famous. A little teaser, the author of Girls Interrupted spent time at this hospital. The book focuses on the history of the hospital. Yet it is evident that the After watching a television show depicting ghost hunters in an "insane asylum" I found my curiosity increased about the history behind some of these institutions. By far, this is the book I enjoyed reading the most. The author focuses on the McLean hospital, part of the Harvard medical system and a temporary home to some of the rich and famous. A little teaser, the author of Girls Interrupted spent time at this hospital. The book focuses on the history of the hospital. Yet it is evident that the author spent additional years learning more about the patients who stayed there and he includes numerous additions from these sources. He is able to pull the story of the hospital together intertwined with stories of the patients and employees resulting in a book that I recently described as a "delightful read". A quote opening Chapter 2 states "Crazy people much more pleasant than I expected." At times I found myself cheering and other times devastated by the loss and I believe the author did a great job of depicting the plight of mental illness in a small segment of that population.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Miriam

    The history of McLean Hospital, one of the most famous mental institutions in the US. It's biggest problem is that it reads like a who's who of the mental hospital.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ann-Marie

    Most, maybe all of us who have suffered through mental illness have wished for a place to retire from the cares if the world for a while, to live slowly, to be gently cared for while we fight the demons back to the nether realms where they belong. Today, if we are lucky, and I have been, we receive the right combination of drugs, counselling, and loving support from our families to recover on our own. For many years, McLean Hospital in Massachusetts, was the very best our country had to offer th Most, maybe all of us who have suffered through mental illness have wished for a place to retire from the cares if the world for a while, to live slowly, to be gently cared for while we fight the demons back to the nether realms where they belong. Today, if we are lucky, and I have been, we receive the right combination of drugs, counselling, and loving support from our families to recover on our own. For many years, McLean Hospital in Massachusetts, was the very best our country had to offer the emotionally fragile and neuropsychologically damaged. It did it very well. If you could afford it. "Gracefully Insane" not only does a wonderful job describing the history of the hospital, but it shares stories of the people who worked there, the patients who passed through, and the ones who came to stay and never left. It takes us through the elegant 19th century, when most other asylums were wretched prison-like establishments, through the 20th, when breakthroughs began to be made (not all of them for the best) in the treatment of the mentally ill. One of the most unfortunate changes in the 20th century was the effect of managed care, and insurance company policies limiting treatment. Hospitals such as McLean have struggled with severe financial restrictions and can no longer be asylums in the true sense of the word, retreats from the stresses and dangers of the outside. I found myself wishing there had been a McLean for me when I needed it. I recommend this book to anyone interested in American history, history of medical and mental health treatment, and just a look into the alternative to the Victorian practice of locking crazy Auntie Mildred in the attic.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Cat

    Beam's "Gracefully Insane" is rich in anecdotal history, but poor in other areas. Makes for a light, enjoyable read, but Beam rarely teases out the interesting insights that arise from his excellent access to the inner workings of America's "Premier" mental hospital. This book will make you think about the (troubled) history of psychiatry/ treatment of mental illness, and Beam's portrait of this institution caused me to shed no tears for the fall of this fabled refuge for blue blooded loons. Readi Beam's "Gracefully Insane" is rich in anecdotal history, but poor in other areas. Makes for a light, enjoyable read, but Beam rarely teases out the interesting insights that arise from his excellent access to the inner workings of America's "Premier" mental hospital. This book will make you think about the (troubled) history of psychiatry/ treatment of mental illness, and Beam's portrait of this institution caused me to shed no tears for the fall of this fabled refuge for blue blooded loons. Reading interviews with "graduates", its hard not to question the assumptions that underlied McLean's very reasons for existence. Few of the individuals profiled within seem like they were ever a "danger to self or others". Indeed, when a rash of suicides hit McLean a couple of decades ago, the staff were singularly unprepared to cope. Perhaps this is because the "inmates" were not as bad off as one might suppose? Makes an interesting companion piece for Goffman's "Asylums".

  9. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    While it covers fascinating material, it feels disjointed and choppy in many places. It sort of reads like a research paper that has been expanded into a book, meaning that there are often stories that seem irrelevant to the overarching history of McLean. This means, though, that the really interesting topics that get broached to fill pages, like famous patients or antiquated methods of psychoanalysis don't get covered in the depth I'd like to see, because this book isn't really about them. It s While it covers fascinating material, it feels disjointed and choppy in many places. It sort of reads like a research paper that has been expanded into a book, meaning that there are often stories that seem irrelevant to the overarching history of McLean. This means, though, that the really interesting topics that get broached to fill pages, like famous patients or antiquated methods of psychoanalysis don't get covered in the depth I'd like to see, because this book isn't really about them. It sort of tempts your reading palate and then takes it away to talk more about the administration staff and filing habits of the mental hospital. So, you get a little bit of everything interspersed with comparatively boring information about a mental hospital whose history isn't even described in the amount of detail with which the other topics are covered. It's a bit odd, but informative all the same.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Joni Markowski

    A compelling look into a prominent insane asylum in Massachusetts and the various treatments used throughout the decades.it also includes insurance issues including Medicare and Medicaid and how it altered the care of the insane. I believe it gives insight into the limited care available in mental health today. It makes you want to advocate for better resources in 2020and beyond.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Savannahkat

    Incredibly thorough in its account of everything McLean, which is both a blessing and a curse. Beam’s writing is clear but anything but concise, and frequently segues into trivial, often unrelated side notes which may or may not be of interest. Each page is littered with names of individuals mentioned only once, random interjections that don’t connect to the point, and so on. However, some of these rabbit trails are in fact interesting and even useful to know, and you’ll definitely come away wit Incredibly thorough in its account of everything McLean, which is both a blessing and a curse. Beam’s writing is clear but anything but concise, and frequently segues into trivial, often unrelated side notes which may or may not be of interest. Each page is littered with names of individuals mentioned only once, random interjections that don’t connect to the point, and so on. However, some of these rabbit trails are in fact interesting and even useful to know, and you’ll definitely come away with a very broad, inclusive array of information on the subject. I do wish Beam had regularly included sources in footnotes in a more typical APA-type fashion, because some things I would have liked to look up later, but there is a section in the back of the book that details where his information originates (and I believe much of it was in oral form or otherwise unavailable to the public anyway). One thing to note is that this book is not a true account of patients’ experiences at McLean, as the title suggests, though snippets of patient accounts are incorporated throughout. Although a great many aspects of the patient experience are included, the use of only small excerpts of patient recollections tends to make the book read more like an account of the institution itself, albeit well-peppered with anecdotes of patient life, than of the advertised “life and death” inside. I went into the book thinking it would be a highly detailed account of the patients and procedures of McLean, focused heavily on patients’ own memories and accounts of their experience. In the end, it was not as patient-focused as expected, but proved an interesting and valuable, if occasionally tedious, read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    A work of non-fiction cataloging the history of the famous McLean Hospital, a psychiatric facility located in the Boston suburbs, this was a pleasure to read. Especially since I grew up a couple miles from the hospital (had even volunteered there as a young adult), I felt protective of this fine institution and all that it represented. It always seemed a staple of mental health treatment which was well known in the psychiatric circles but otherwise seemed to be a "secret" to others outside of th A work of non-fiction cataloging the history of the famous McLean Hospital, a psychiatric facility located in the Boston suburbs, this was a pleasure to read. Especially since I grew up a couple miles from the hospital (had even volunteered there as a young adult), I felt protective of this fine institution and all that it represented. It always seemed a staple of mental health treatment which was well known in the psychiatric circles but otherwise seemed to be a "secret" to others outside of the nearby community. Turns out Beam's novel revealed that this hospital was even more well known than I had suspected, just that this reputation existed a little above my pay grade. The novel catalogues the hospital's 200 year history from its humble beginings to its heyday in the 1900's as a facility providing excellent treatment for those who could afford it. The listing of the rich and famous who sought treatment within its walls is extensive and author Beam does a great job juxtapositing the historical background of the hospital with its evolving treatment modalities, as well as information on some of its more well-known residents. The hospital, much like many psychiatric hospitals across the country, has faced challenges in how it administers care in a changed health care environment and this stepwise progression is depicted nicely by Beam. For those with any training in psychology, medicine, or psychiatry this is a very well researched piece of medical history that is engrossing and factual. Readers without some of this background should not be intimidated by the subject matter or mental health terminology since Beam is able to provide good explanations for all without alienating. Highly recommended.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    This book was great. I sort of expected it to focus more on the various messed-up therapies common in the days when McLeans was started, but it kept that to a minimum. I found myself saddened that in the current age of "treat 'em and street 'em" therapies, a place like McLeans is having to change what made it essentially the best mental hospital in New England: a place where the mentally ill could take their own time to get better. I was also extremely entertained to learn how many famous people This book was great. I sort of expected it to focus more on the various messed-up therapies common in the days when McLeans was started, but it kept that to a minimum. I found myself saddened that in the current age of "treat 'em and street 'em" therapies, a place like McLeans is having to change what made it essentially the best mental hospital in New England: a place where the mentally ill could take their own time to get better. I was also extremely entertained to learn how many famous people passed through its doors. I've never been to McLeans, seen the grounds or anything, so I think I'll always picture it the way Olmstead imagined it: sprawling grounds, sparse living facilities (so residents of one ward didn't have to see residents of other wards necessarily), dairy farm, and all the other things that went into making it a universe unto itself.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Marie

    It's probably more of a 3.5...not the most organized book. It is all over the place and choppy (expect more a collection of short stories and it shouldn't bother so much), but it's an interesting glimpse into what used to be one of the most prestigious mental institutions for the wealthy and talented. It's the subject of many famous books/films and housed many famous individuals, Girl, Interrupted, Sylvia Plath/The Bell Jar, Ray Charles, James Taylor, many Harvard educated intellectuals...and a It's probably more of a 3.5...not the most organized book. It is all over the place and choppy (expect more a collection of short stories and it shouldn't bother so much), but it's an interesting glimpse into what used to be one of the most prestigious mental institutions for the wealthy and talented. It's the subject of many famous books/films and housed many famous individuals, Girl, Interrupted, Sylvia Plath/The Bell Jar, Ray Charles, James Taylor, many Harvard educated intellectuals...and a host of others. It also covers the evolution of psychiatric science from the days of lobotomies to the current drug-pushing, managed care marketplace. Quick read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    William Nist

    This year I have read two books chronicling the history of two major American Mental Hospitals--Bellevue and McLean. This book is about McLean Hospital outside of Boston. The two hospitals could not be more different. Bellevue is a public hospital taking all cases while McLean was a hospital for the affluent affiliated with Harvard. McLean offered the rich and famous a genteel, gracious milieu for healing and restoration. The grounds were filled with mansions and gardens (even a golf course), ho This year I have read two books chronicling the history of two major American Mental Hospitals--Bellevue and McLean. This book is about McLean Hospital outside of Boston. The two hospitals could not be more different. Bellevue is a public hospital taking all cases while McLean was a hospital for the affluent affiliated with Harvard. McLean offered the rich and famous a genteel, gracious milieu for healing and restoration. The grounds were filled with mansions and gardens (even a golf course), housing the residents in comfortable suites instead of wards. McLean did offer all the innovations in psychiatry that rolled out over the decades (gruesomely detailed), but the tone was always one of elite professionalism. Many famous residents included Sylvia Plath (who committed suicide), James Taylor and Ray Charles. Of course, about 40 years ago, the mental health field turned away from this type of mental institution, when the era of psychopharmacology began. These residential hospital are now rare, and Mclean also had to adjust. It has sold off most of its 250 acre campus, and now visits are for a week or so instead of lifetime! The history if fascinating because it is both a social history and the history of a medical specialty. The book offers a condensed biography of all the major characters administrating this institution. Read both books together for a comprehensive look at the American Psychiatric establishment since the early 19th century. Bellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America's Most Storied Hospital

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ronald Koltnow

    Gracefully Insane was Boston Globe journo Alex Beam's first non-fiction book (few know that he had written a c0uple 0f novels before this). It may be his best. Using the country club setting of McLean Psychiatric Hospital as a springboard, Beam traces the history of the treatment of mental patients. In olden times, lunatics were chained to walls, frightened to near death, and dunked in water until they lost consciousness. Then came insulin and electro-shock therapy. McLean was a center for milli Gracefully Insane was Boston Globe journo Alex Beam's first non-fiction book (few know that he had written a c0uple 0f novels before this). It may be his best. Using the country club setting of McLean Psychiatric Hospital as a springboard, Beam traces the history of the treatment of mental patients. In olden times, lunatics were chained to walls, frightened to near death, and dunked in water until they lost consciousness. Then came insulin and electro-shock therapy. McLean was a center for millieu therapy, a way of making the filthy, yet insane, rich feel at home. The Mayflower Madcaps played golf, socialized, and went on their loony way. Beam gives us case histories and portraits of the patients and the doctors; Can you tell which was the most in need of psychiatric care? As the years progress and the Back Bay eccentrics are replaced by drug-addled brats, the book loses some steam. Yet, this is a fascinating look at how little we understand mental illness and why we will never know what works effectively on those who suffer from it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Johnson

    This book proved to be very profound. Working in the field since graduating High School, working at 4 different State Hospitals in Mass, reading about Mcleans was like reading about the rich and famous though very different from the places I've worked, their were also many similarities mostly notably the architecture and quality of building materials, which in time all turn back to dust and either melt into the ground, get bulldozed over or simply get re-used in a manner no befitting its history This book proved to be very profound. Working in the field since graduating High School, working at 4 different State Hospitals in Mass, reading about Mcleans was like reading about the rich and famous though very different from the places I've worked, their were also many similarities mostly notably the architecture and quality of building materials, which in time all turn back to dust and either melt into the ground, get bulldozed over or simply get re-used in a manner no befitting its history. As with many books I read, this book has certainly given me many dog eared pages to go back and get the names of Authors and Books on the subjects pertinent to this book. I also need to catch up on the works of the Famous Mclean Graduates, its almost sick just how many poets and talented individuals thought admission to Mcleans was a "Must Have" in their resumes, but whatever. Great Book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Marianne

    A great book outlining the history of mental health treatment in the United States. Of course, it is also the history of the luxurious institution for the rich (still open today if you can pay for it yourself). It's filled with engrossing stories and is a great beginning for someone interested in finding out where we're going wrong in treating mental health issues today. Interestingly or ironically, the last chapter discusses insurance companies and insurance coverage and health care coverage is A great book outlining the history of mental health treatment in the United States. Of course, it is also the history of the luxurious institution for the rich (still open today if you can pay for it yourself). It's filled with engrossing stories and is a great beginning for someone interested in finding out where we're going wrong in treating mental health issues today. Interestingly or ironically, the last chapter discusses insurance companies and insurance coverage and health care coverage is on the Sunday morning talk shows this very day. Once again, I read a book with a historical perspective only to find that we haven't really changed for the better.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ashley

    Interesting to see how the institutions of Somerville in Boston was strictly for the elite, and life in Somerville also had it's own downfalls. The elite used Somerville as a place to retreat from life and still be treated like they were elite. The poor, no matter how poor, we're still treated beyond abusive and places with their documentation like many institutions always disappeared and it demonstrates how care of the "mentally insane" was like many places inhumane, ignored rights and did what Interesting to see how the institutions of Somerville in Boston was strictly for the elite, and life in Somerville also had it's own downfalls. The elite used Somerville as a place to retreat from life and still be treated like they were elite. The poor, no matter how poor, we're still treated beyond abusive and places with their documentation like many institutions always disappeared and it demonstrates how care of the "mentally insane" was like many places inhumane, ignored rights and did what they pleased with the people whom entered their doors. If your interested in how these places ran and what came from these places, it's a must read,

  20. 4 out of 5

    Heather Goodwin

    I was looking forward to this book so much as I am a Boston native who currently works in psychiatry. I echo the comments below in that this book resembled a collection of research articles that were consolidated into a book. It was a lot of facts about the history of the hospital and the administration at the time. I did enjoy the brief insight into some of the patients and treatments, but wish it was the focus. If you like history, then you might like this. If you are looking to learn more abo I was looking forward to this book so much as I am a Boston native who currently works in psychiatry. I echo the comments below in that this book resembled a collection of research articles that were consolidated into a book. It was a lot of facts about the history of the hospital and the administration at the time. I did enjoy the brief insight into some of the patients and treatments, but wish it was the focus. If you like history, then you might like this. If you are looking to learn more about the patients, you will not find it in this book.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Liz Clappin

    This is the kind of nonfiction I want to read, engaging, personal interest stories, just enough information (with footnotes in case you need more) that it doesn't become exhaustive, quick but nicely structured and concise chapters, addresses all the stories you want to hear but also throws in some surprises. Really enjoyable with some thought provoking discussion and sensitive handling of hard topics and truths.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Con

    A classic about a Boston institution--along the lines of Cleveland Amory's The Proper Bostonians--this book will outlive its author. Two nits: the "penciled memorandum" found among the effects of Scofield Thayer ("I have not loved the world/nor the world me") is from Byron's "Childe Harold," not the scion of the Worcester Thayers, and Delmore Schwartz deserves credit for his enduring wisecrack, "even paranoids have enemies," appropriated by Woody Allen, among others.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    A very engaging look into the culture and people of McLean Hospital in Belmont, Massachusetts. I enjoyed the writing style and stories, although it is quite heavy on anecdotes about individual people and stories that the author heard from the people he met with, and is not at all a serious historical overview of the history of the hospital. But I still enjoyed it and would love to learn more about this institution.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kristy Oman

    This book is really less about the history of McLean and mental health in general and more of a Who’s Who of former patients. There are scant details about actual treatment and the historical progression of the mental health “industry.” Furthermore scant details about actual patient life if they weren’t well-known or tied to someone well-known in pop culture.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Erin Grasse

    Quite an interesting look at how mental heath treatment has evolved over time in the context of a particular community! I was hoping for a more thorough description of how the ways in which mental illness has been understood have changed, so I was disappointed in that regard. That being said, the book as a whole is exceptionally well-researched and well-written.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Holly Storm

    Some incredibly thought provoking stories, I'm super nosy about things like this so it gripped me in places. The writing is quite easy to follow for someone who doesn't always read this style of book and the subject matter is dealt with, I thought, quite tactfully.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Breanna Locke

    An interesting history of McLean and some of its past inhabitants. It has a journalistic tone throughout until the (male) author casually uses the word "bitchy" to describe a poem by Pulitzer winner and former McLean patient, Anne Sexton. Not OK, dude.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Tomi

    There was some interesting information in this book - who knew Ray Charles was in a mental hospital for awhile? Overall, however, the book just gave a very superficial treatment to what could have been a very interesting story.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Not a book club read If you are a history buff and like reading a text book style reporting of a facility, it's employees, and visitors, this is a book for you. Interesting facts, but not a book for book club gatherings

  30. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    Fascinating! Well written and researched, but not written for academia, so an enjoyable read!

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