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  • Published: 4 March 2021
  • ISBN: 9781473575561
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 352

Heavy Light

A Journey Through Madness, Mania and Healing




A journey through mania, madness and healing: both personal and rigorously researched this is a timely contribution to our ongoing national conversation about mental health

'An extraordinary book: deeply moving, darkly funny and hugely powerful' Robert Macfarlane
Heavy Light is the story of a breakdown: a journey through mania, psychosis and treatment in a psychiatric hospital, and onwards to release, recovery and healing.

After a lifetime of ups and downs, Horatio Clare was committed to hospital under Section 2 of the Mental Health Act.

From hypomania in the Alps, to a complete breakdown and a locked ward in Wakefield, this is a gripping account of how the mind loses touch with reality, how we fall apart and how we can be healed - or not - by treatment. A story of the wonder and intensity of the manic experience, as well as its peril and strangeness, it is shot through with the love, kindness, humour and care of those who deal with someone who becomes dangerously ill.

Partly a tribute to those who looked after Horatio, from family and friends to strangers and professionals, and partly an investigation into how we understand and treat acute crises of mental health, Heavy Light's beauty, power and compassion illuminate a fundamental part of human experience. It asks urgent questions about mental health that affect each and every one of us.


'One of the most brilliant travel writers of our day takes us us now to that most challenging country, severe mental illness; and does so with such wit, warmth, and humanity, that, better acquainted with its terrors, we may better face our own' Reverend Richard Coles

'A record of the bravest, most perilous, most intrepid journey that any human being can ever make. It is stricken, moving, urgent, crucial . . . A luminous, beautiful achievement' Niall Griffiths

  • Published: 4 March 2021
  • ISBN: 9781473575561
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 352

About the author

Horatio Clare

Horatio Clare is the bestselling author of numerous books including the memoirs Running for the Hills and Truant and the travel books A Single Swallow, Down to the Sea in Ships, Orison for a Curlew, Icebreaker and The Light in the Dark. His books for children include Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot and Aubrey and the Terrible Ladybirds. Horatio’s essays and reviews appear on BBC radio and in the Financial Times, the Observer and the Spectator, among other publications. He lives with his family in West Yorkshire.

Also by Horatio Clare

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Praise for Heavy Light

An extraordinary book: deeply moving, darkly funny and hugely powerful. It travels hard country: mania, paranoia, the huge collateral damage of madness. It shows its readers, unforgettably, what it is like to see the world on a "skewed plane". But the star by which it steers is, in the end and above all, love. This book confirms that Horatio Clare is among the most brilliant and compassionate writers of non-fiction I know

Robert Macfarlane

A brave, lit-up account of going mad and getting better, that forensically tracks the footprints of both journeys towards a settlement with the self

Jeanette Winterson

Horatio Clare, whose adventures in the Black Mountains, the Gulf of Bothnia, the Ethiopian Highlands, and the point in the Pacific Ocean furthest on earth from land, have made him one of the most brilliant travel writers of our day, takes us us now to that most challenging country, severe mental illness; and does so with such wit, warmth, and humanity, that, better acquainted with its terrors, we may better face our own

Reverend Richard Coles

I tore through Heavy Light, and haven't been able to stop thinking about it

Amy Liptrot

Compelling, beautifully-written and utterly devastating. A balm in itself

Katie Law, Evening Standard

Heavy Light is a record of the bravest, most perilous, most intrepid journey that any human being can ever make. It is stricken, moving, urgent, crucial, and deserves to -- and, I don't doubt, will -- stand alongside such classics of the genre as Solomon's Noonday Demon, Leader's What is Madness?, even Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning. A luminous, beautiful achievement

Niall Griffiths

A fearless dive into the darks of the mind -- fiercely moving, ruthlessly honest and written with an exquisite care. It is a call for understanding that we all need to hear

Tom Bullough

Clare takes us inside his head in this profound, compelling account of acute mental illness, which is also a love letter to those who cared for and supported him. And as he recovers, Heavy Light turns into a heartfelt quest to understand what happened to him, and how we can heal those similarly afflicted. This book must have been terribly hard to write, but it feels so important he's done so

Caroline Sanderson, Bookseller (Book of the Month)

Horatio Clare is a true adventurer and an English original - as vital as Chatwin, as endearing as Withnail. Even when writing about his own breakdown he does so with a poet's ear, brave journalistic insight and, crucially, no shortage of humour. Heavy Light is a white-knuckle descent whose transcendent theme of mania is timeless and universal

Benjamin Myers

A remarkable tribute both to the depths of human compassion and Clare's extraordinary gifts as an author, witness and guide

Dan Richards, Geographical

A superb and shining achievement . . . Heavy Light is an odyssey for our times, full of hope in an uncertain future . . . a life-changing experience

Sue Brooks, Caught by the River

A shattering journey . . . remarkable

Sheena Joughin, Times Literary Supplement

What a gift...having such an articulate agent, reporting back from the far edges of the mind

Megan Agnew, Sunday Times

Unforgettable

Rory Sullivan

Really moving... a call to reconsider treatment options for people who've had breakdowns

Free Thinking, BBC Radio 3

Clare brilliantly describes his mania... But he has a wider purpose here. Following his discharge from hospital Clare sets out to explore alternatives to the lifetime of terrifyingly strong medication he has been prescribed

Stephanie Cross, Lady

Readers of Clare's game-changing memoir . . . will be struck by the fact that a mind so recently dominated by straight-to-DVD fantasies is now capable of reflecting on them with so much gentle wisdom and acute self-awareness. And in such beautiful, witty prose

Helen Brown, Daily Telegraph

Clare is a ferociously gifted writer . . . Just as George Orwell's time in destitution exposed poverty when he was Down and Out in London and Paris so too does Horatio Clare's bravely brilliant and brilliantly brave book expose the failings of the mental health system, even as it intimates hope. In this it reminds one of a very different book, Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, which not only showed the problem of pesticides but acted as a clarion call . . . Hopefully the shining of a Heavy Light might do the same

Jon Gower, Nation Cymru

The heart of the book is sincere and the linguistic skill exemplary. I can't think of a more astute way to begin the discussions about mental health that must begin than his analysis of how phrases like "I cracked up" or "I broke down"...can have very different meanings in different contexts

Stuart Kelly, Scotland on Sunday

Lucid, fluent, utterly unembarrassed . . . a forensic, yet tender account of a plummet into insanity, treatment at the - frequently gentle - hands of the government health service, and eventual redemption . . . a sad, uplifting, timely book

Ed Peters, South China Morning Post

Hard-hitting but tender-hearted . . . Clare thoughtfully and determinedly seeks to challenge the status-quo on treatment for mental health conditions

Hannah Millington, Independent

Clare is a wildly endearing narrator of his own turmoil . . . [his] is a persuasive argument not only against chemical answers to his own illness, but also against the hasty (and often permanent) way individuals are labelled with diagnostic categories

Brian Dillon, Financial Times

I loved Heavy Light: its honesty, its questing intelligence. I loved Clare's openness to the stories of others - seeking to understand, not to judge . . . Although he has nothing but praise for the carers who helped him through, his description of our threadbare mental health services, and the inhuman pressures on those who work in them, is heart-breaking. We have to do better

Julian Sheather, British Medical Journal

A beautiful, unflinchingly honest book about madness, mania, parenting, surviving and, above all, love and its power to heal us

Rachel Clarke, author of Dear Life and Breathtaking

Clare... recounts his recovery from that low ebb of mania with acute self-awareness, and in gentle, witty prose

Daily Telegraph, *Summer Reads of 2021*

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