The Cloud of Unknowing by Thomas Cook


I did an extensive search of my library catalog with various subjects for the mental illness reading challenge and I came up with a decent list of books to read months ago. Now I just want to say that everyone involved at my public library knows how lacking our cataloging is and subject headings are few and far between on items. But regardless I had a good starting place.

I picked this book because the only headings given this book were: Schizophrenia, Psychological fiction,  brothers & sisters, and family. I thought this may a good book about the disease and how the family dealt. Well… not quite

It fits into a mystery/crime-fiction “esque” genre. The book follows the mystery surrounding the death of a young boy and how his mother was handling it. The mother had a brother who is our prominent narrator and their family has a history in schizophrenia. As kids they dealt with the father and his disease. Now, later as adults it seems they may face it all over again as the sister appears to be unstable after the death of her son. Anyways, the book is broken into two parts essentially. The story is being told from the brother’s (David’s) perspective to a detective while he is in holding it seems. So the chapters jump from the scenes where the detective and David are speaking to the flashbacks from how David told the story. 

I’m not going to say a whole lot more about the book for fear of giving something away. I was on the fence about this book midway through, and I certainly felt it didn’t really work for the mental illness challenge. But after just finishing it I think it does in it’s own way. While reading it I thought that the book really wasn’t about schizophrenia, but that the disease was only present in the background tot the story. They also never really talked much about schizophrenia other than mentioning the father or whoever had it. But after finishing it, it’s the little things that make me see how this book was really about the mental illness. Pay close attention to how people act and whatnot. Clear symptoms of the disease are prevalent in the writing: problems thinking clearly, trouble with normal emotional responses, problems with telling whats real from not, bizarre behavior, isolation, delusions, and of course voices and whatnot. So I think it did a good job. I definitely didn’t expect the ending, and the ending really solidified the book for me. I’d give it a 3 stars, and recommend it for an interesting suspenseful yet thought provoking book. Man the characters could get philosophical on you at times, but I enjoyed that!

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One thought on “The Cloud of Unknowing by Thomas Cook

  1. I love how much thought and effort you’ve put into this reading challenge! Hopefully your local library will perceive it as an unmet need in their holdings due to your interest.

    Sometimes seeing how an illness impacts everyone around the person in a subtle way is just as important to a better understanding as more heavy-hitting stories.

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