ON UNLIKE THE HEART: A MEMOIR OF BRAIN AND MIND


Helen Garner

‘A vital account of a struggle: resolute, intelligent and endlessly interesting.’


Siri Hustvedt

‘In Nicola Redhouse’s Unlike the Heart, theoretical questions of psyche and soma are not remote but urgent concerns, intimately bound to her own family’s story and the terrible anxiety she experienced after the births of her children. Intelligent, lucid and knowledgeable, the book itself may be said to embody the discipline of neuropsychoanalysis: It combines the narrative of a single patient with insights from the science of the brain.’


Steven Amsterdam

‘Redhouse has corralled the ordinary and extraordinary madness of motherhood, the history of psychoanalysis, the efficacy of antidepressants, the future of neuroscience, and the complexities of her uniquely introspective family to create a kind of perfect memoir – one that enlarges the reader’s knowledge and leaves them with questions about their own existence.’


Lee Kofman

‘In this original, rigorous, poignant yet witty, and personally urgent work, Redhouse puts Freud and his disciples onto the couch – to scrutinise the art, and possibly science, of psychoanalysis, and, even more ambitiously, to find where brain ends and mind begins. This book is a feat of literary and intellectual fireworks.’


Books+Publishing (Anne Barnetson)

‘Scrupulous, tender and interesting, Unlike the Heart is a deeply felt meditation on how we live and feel.’


Readings Monthly (Elke Power)

In this extraordinary memoir, the reader is taken into the confidence of Nicola Redhouse: writer, editor, reader and, above all, someone who constantly seeks to better understand the human condition and her own unique mind. Unlike the Heart is an insightful account of mental health experiences in a family, particularly postnatal anxiety. It is also a profoundly personal reflection on navigating through competing frameworks – in particular psychoanalysis, psychology, psychiatry, and neuroscience – for understanding these issues. The result is a sophisticated examination of the tensions between these sparring schools of thought and their theories, and the story of a quest for self-knowledge that makes for compulsive reading.

Redhouse brings an open mind, an appetite for research and an occasionally devastating turn of phrase to her endeavour: ‘I lay in my bed beset by an impermeable doom; not quite thoughts about particular events but a climate of dread in me.’ She captures the mental gymnastics of early parenthood with crystalline accuracy: ‘I feared that Reuben wasn’t sleeping because of something that I was doing to him or not doing to him.’ In the midst of this work of serious enquiry and complex theoretical engagement, her presence is vivid and relatable: ‘Which of me was the real me? The one who woke with terror in the pit of my guts? Or the one who could enjoy a bowl of porridge once the terror was annihilated?’

Unlike the Heart is intense, rigorous and impossible to ignore once you begin it. Having already monopolised the attention of numerous Readings staffers, it shows every sign of becoming an influential book that will be discussed for years to come. It will resonate with readers who have experienced perinatal depression or anxiety, but it is also a must-read for anyone interested in the history and future of the study of the mind.


The Saturday Paper (Kate Holden)

‘Composed, confident writing; elegantly synthesised research; an attractive portmanteau of motherhood memoir, account of mental illness, family secrets and an alert, yet vulnerable persona; candour and intimacy that many other mothers will respond to … The book gives us much, and is a gift to those interested in how we conceive and treat the distress seeping through our society like acetone…’


Ceridwen Dovey, ‘The Bookshelf’, ABC Radio National

‘It starts out as a sort of memoir of her postnatal anxiety but you quickly realise that it’s going to be a very unapologetically wonderfully intellectual investigating of brain and mind using the lens of her own experience … she’s looking at the age-old split between mind and brain that still exists and tries to … bring them together in this beautiful act of creation and formation of her own life story through writing.’


The Monthly (Sophie Quick)

‘Redhouse writes with eloquence on the limitations of science, and of conceiving of the brain as a purely material, in the treatment of mental illness. She raises some profound questions … Redhouse has a real gift for distilling complicated academic ideas and controversies across a dizzying range of disciplines. She has a gift, too, for describing the mysterious phenomena of the mind with both awe and lucidity …

In one sense, Unlike the Heart embodies the dynamic model of mind that Redhouse embraces. It contains material that can be empirically studied and verified, but it also comprises memories, books, theories, feelings, people and ghosts. The combination generates copious – and inevitably subjective – meaning. Unlike the Heart is … always remarkable.’


The Big Issue (Angela Elizabeth)

‘…an accomplished, deeply personal memoir … Redhouse is an articulate and insightful narrator of her own trauma … The book is a unique combination of memoir and theoretical analysis that engages intelligently with philosophy, neuroscience and literature.’