Cover Image: The Rag and Bone Shop

The Rag and Bone Shop

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Member Reviews

Interesting read, which makes the topic approachable and 'easy' to understand. However, the many descriptions of psychosis gave me the chills and made for really disturbing reading at times - be warned the examples the author uses (usually the episodes in italics) can be very triggering and upsetting throughout.
Not one for the faint of heart, I would say
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Memories. They make us and they break us. Deep, taut and an immersive read. This book is an absolute treat and a homage to memories that humans makes and the memories that makes a human. Absolutely mesmerizing, philosophical and beautiful.
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I found this to be informative yet haunting exploration of memory, the reality of our memories and how our memories shape us. It’s not an easy read, however the vignettes are sensitively covered with care shown to the individuals concerned.
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O'Keane is a practising psychiatrist who begins on the journey to explore the topic of memory through the touching experiences of her patients, literature, genetics, fairytales and neuro scientific research. Her aim is to attempt to understand more about the human brain on its journey from birth through to old age. 

This was a very interesting read. As a mental health nurse with very limited experiences of working with Dementia and Alzheimer's inparticularly, I feel as though I not just learnt from this book, but also felt as though it has sparked some very interesting topics for further reading for me! The inclusion of individual case studies was very important to me as I feel this is the only way that we will ever be understand the complexities of memory loss. 

Overall this was a very fascinating and thought-provoking read that I am sure I will refer back to at some point in soon! 

Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Press UK for an ARC of this in exchange for an honest review!
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An exploration of memory and mental health, O'Keane explores neuroscientific research to ask huge questions about memory: why it feels so real, how our perceptions and assumptions connect to memory, whether memories are 'true' or not— and how memory can be disrupted by mental illness. In places this was a tough read, it's hard not to feel overwhelmingly sad for the people whose stories are drawn on here. That said, O'Keane's work is compassionate to the core— it teaches with care, which is exactly what a book like this should do.
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Divided into two parts, the first centred around explaining "how we make memories" and the second around  "how memories make us", Veronica O'Keane's attempt to demystify memory takes from several domains to tackle her subject matter. 
Mostly drawing from established and recent neurological discoveries, she also integrates case studies and literary insights to further illuminate her explanation of the cognitive processes involved in memory. 

O'Keane being a psychiatrist with decades of experience across the British Isles, she provided me with a deepened knowledge of how phenomena such as psychosis and stress are experienced and how memory works  (or doesn't more like) when experiencing these. It was also a good refresher in terms of brain anatomy and processes, though frankly some of it did go over my head after a while.

While the literary references were nice in some respect (i.e. a bit of a solace from the dry science), I am not convinced that it was a successful integration that ultimately created a sum larger than its parts. 

I would say that for me this book is more of a 3.5 stars. I did take quite a lot from it, but in fairness it wasn't exactly a page turner due to the nature of its content and, while engaged and interested, I didn't fly away with it. 

Let's hope now I can remember at least the most salient parts from it. 


Many thanks to Penguin Press UK and NetGalley for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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A fascinating book that I think is extremely accessible, I read this as a medical student and I learnt so much and it really challenged me to consider what memories are on a deeper level. It is a very scientific book so not for everyone but I enjoyed it!
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A book that is what it says on the jacket. A rag and bone shop full of items, all of which will be useful to someone, but the shelves are piled so high you may never discover what you’re looking for. More curation and presenting complementary items together might make a visit to the shop a far more engaging experience.
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“Come away, O human child!” Memory is a fascinating subject and ‘The Rag and Bone Shop: How We Make Memories and Memories Make Us’ by Prof. Veronica O’Keane tells us how she re-visited her learnings about memory after treating a patient with post-partum psychosis.

The only other books I had read written by a psychiatrist were by the great Oliver Sacks. There is definitely something fascinating about reading about cases of patients “at odds with the world as experienced by others around them.” 

O’Keane’s book opens with the heart-wrenching story of extreme post-partum psychosis in a newly delivered mother. We learn that this is the result of rapidly changing hormones affecting the brain, but O’Keane realises from this that memory is a powerful present lived experience that can hit us “with an emotional punch all over again.”

A link to fairy tales comes in O’Keane’s conclusion to this fascinating book and in particular Irish fairy stories and Yeats poem ‘The Stolen Child’ and the motif of the changeling child. It’s a really interesting book with a comfortable meld of science and literature making it a delight to read.
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This one took me a while to read, great to dip in and out of, and I found it extremely well written by a practising psychiatrist, Veronica O'Keane. What a fascinating subject the human brain is.
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I loved this book, though the topic of memory is something I find endlessly fascinating. I liked the writer's style and felt her references to literature gave the book a life, a poetry, that otherwise would have been missing. Throughout, she blends neuroscience and psychology to give a rich, wide-ranging view of how our brains function and how this effects are whole experience of the world. An excellent piece of writing, I hope I get to read more from the writer in the future.
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Very enlightening and enjoyable book by a psychiatrist.who deals with mental health and explains how something might trigger a patient. Fascinating insight into the brain
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clear and warms discussion of memory and things with questions she approaches which are burning eternal issues: like is the brain's physiological make up influential on how we think and feel? she covers the ground well - and with clarity - recommendable in extreme ... esp after all the covid information we've been fed and concerns about mental health ... top rate!
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Thank you NetGalley for allowing me to read this book.  

I was drawn to this book, but unfortunately struggled to get through it, and it did take me a while to finish.  Loved the patient stories, but found the medical information too detailed for my brain to retain.
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The book took me a while to read - I’d read a chapter and then read another book and then return to it.  As a layman, I struggled with the science but found the patient stories particularly interesting. 

I’m glad that I did persevere with the book because it’s a fascinating subject area.
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If you are looking for a book that explains the way the Brain and memory works in an interesting and informative way I would recommend David Eagleman’s ‘The Brain’ and Hannah Critchlows ‘The Science of Fate’. 
 Veronica O’Keene’s take on the subject seems unnecessarily complicated. It seems like a book written to show off to clever friends rather than one to make her knowledge of the subject accessible to all. She throws in numerous references to random works of literature, using the longest words possible and multiple double negatives to explain a concept and sometimes straying into using French. Reading it made me feel like the stupid person at a dinner party who doesn’t quite manage to follow the conversation…
 Though I did learn a few interesting facts along the way, it was far from an enjoyable read for me.
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DNF - 26% completed

Unfortunately I found this book very boring and therefore did not finish. There was the odd interesting point but overall I found that I was looking for more anecdotes and less science.
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I loved reading this book, it's such a fascinating topic. I'd love to read from this author. Her writing was engaging, without making the subject matter boring. 
Thanks a lot to NT and the publisher for this copy.
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O’Keane writes with clarity and compassion about mental illness. The book is full of lessons we can learn from those suffering from mental illness about how our minds work.

The open section of the book especially is full of insights about how many of us perceive there to be a separation from mind and body which O'Keane persuasively argues is unhelpful.

O'Keane punctuates her points using vivid examples from art and literature as well as case studies from her own practice. Memory is a strange often unreliable thing that we all depend upon. The Rag and Bone Shop does a wonderful job of exploring how memories are made, how they are stores and how change over time as we recall them. 

Reading this made me realise how memory is central to the human experience, to understanding the world and our place in it.

There were some concepts that I struggled to understand but this was more my fault than that of the author. However, given the subject matter, those looking for a light read need to go in understanding that while O’Keane has made most of the concepts accessible there are still many theories that are tough to grasp (or at least they were for me). 

It is one of those books that after you finish reading it you have a better understanding of not only yourself but of other people in the world around you. Astounding and illuminating in equal measure.
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I was really interested in reading this title as I am fascinated by memories and how each person has varying degrees of recall.

Sadly, this book was aimed at more of a medical audience and not as interesting as I had hoped.
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