Rowan the Strange


Rowan is a young boy with a particularly vibrant imagination, who spends life captivated within his own thoughts – in many ways like any child. But sometimes his mind sprouts legs of its own and leads Rowan to do terrible things.

This novel follows Rowan’s journey through the twists and turns of WW2 hospital life. Diagnosed as a schizophrenic, we see the different methods used to treat his condition and the successes and pitfalls of mental health practice of that time. The novel deals not only with the ethical issues raised by trials of electric shock treatment (ECT) but also with other complex issues, such as racism, separation, prejudice and exclusion. It raises important questions like where people draw the line between sanity and mental illness, and whether troubled times drive us all mad to some extent.

Julie Hearn chooses to write from a neutral perspective. She gradually introduces us to the characters’ inner worlds, which show just how similar the patients’ thoughts can be to their keepers’. This is one of the most interesting aspects of this interesting book, as it’s something that all of us can relate to.

From beginning to end, I could not put it down; this book is the pure definition of a page-turner. It is also an intense, deep and well-written book dealing with a subject that is at times disturbing. However carefully the subject matter is treated, I think it might shock younger readers left to read it alone, without friends or parents reading the book at a similar time. It naturally gives rise to a lot of discussion – I know it did in our house.

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(UK) £10.99

(UK) 9780192792150