Leyla Sanai

Dr Leyla Sanai is a Persian-British writer and retired doctor who worked as a physician, intensivist, and consultant anaesthetist before developing severe scleroderma and antiphospholipid syndrome

The diary of a dying man: Graham Caveney’s poignant cancer memoir

Reading this third memoir by Graham Caveney, a knot in my chest tightened. It wasn’t only because it’s a cancer memoir; it was because the unfolding of history so often shows that abuse begets self-destructive behaviour. To parody Auden: I and the public knowWhat all healthcare staff learnThose to whom evil is doneDestroy themselves in

Do art attackers think they’re helping?

The latest painting to be attacked by an ovine climate protestor is Monet’s Poppies in Paris’s Musee D’Orsay. Thankfully, the initial reports that the painting was not protected by glass were inaccurate, and the alarming red rectangle – which at first glance looked as if the painting had been torn to the underlying canvas –

A tragedy waiting to happen: Tiananmen Square, by Lai Wen, reviewed

Lai Wen’s captivating book about growing up in China and witnessing the horrific massacre in Tiananmen Square reads like a memoir. The protagonist’s name is Lai, and her description of her parents is utterly convincing – the pretty, bitter housewife mother, jealous of the opportunities her daughter has; the father permanently cowed after being briefly

I was the NME’s squarest journalist

Before I went to medical school I had a hip alternative life. In the 1980s, as a 17 year-old schoolgirl, I wrote for the New Musical Express. My friends assume I had a great time with sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, but the truth is I was such a cautious Carla that I didn’t

Married At First Sight feels strangely traditional

There should be a salacious German word for the blissful relief one feels at not being in another’s uncomfortable situation. Not pleasure at their misfortune, as in schadenfreude, just toe-stretching- and-dancing joy that you are safely under a blanket on the sofa while others are undergoing intense public scrutiny.  First impressions suggested earnest, caring individuals

The golden age of Dutch art never ceases to amaze

This year’s Vermeer exhibition at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Frans Hals retrospective at London’s National Gallery are testaments to the enduring appeal of the Dutch artists of the Golden Age. When the 80-year war between Spain and the Dutch Republic ended in 1648, it left the Dutch strong in military and economic terms.

The danger of making too many friends

Elizabeth Day has found her niche as an astute, approachable social anthropologist, observing emotions and behaviour we are reluctant to discuss – such as failure – and draining them of their stigma. Her new book tackles the subject of friendship, which she points out has been far less analysed than romantic relationships. Her honesty and

A shocking account of madness – and how it is treated in the US

The Best Minds is a coruscating indictment of psychiatric services for psychotic patients in the US. It is also a moving and shocking account of the trajectory of Jonathan Rosen’s childhood best friend, Michael Laudor, struck in his youth by schizophrenia, and whose starry ascent through Yale law school to spokesman for stigmatised patients with

Blake Morrison mourns the sister he lost to alcoholism

Blake Morrison’s previous memoirsAnd When Did You Last See Your Father? (1993) and Things My Mother Never Told Me (2002) examined his parents with the clear-eyed appraisal that only adulthood brings. In the first, he evoked the vigour of his father, Arthur: his sense of fun when rule-breaking for thrills, and the selfish entitlement which

A dying doctor’s last words

Facing up to the prospect of one’s own mortality is always jarring; but when you’ve spent your life trying, and sometimes failing, to save others from a terrible death, it carries the knowledge that the journey may be more traumatic than the fear or grief of the end. These are the concerns with which Henry

Women behaving badly: Ghost Lover, by Lisa Taddeo, reviewed

Lisa Taddeo’s Three Women established her as a narrator of female desire in all its complexity. Her study of three real women and their sexual choices became a bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic, showing how women sometimes collude in relationships that are destructive, or make decisions they later regret. Power imbalance, coercion and

Zimbabwe’s politics satirised: Glory, by NoViolet Bulawayo, reviewed

NoViolet Bulawayo’s first novel We Need New Names, shortlisted for the Booker in 2013, was a charming, tender gem, suffused with the guileless hilarity of children and the shock of tragedy in Zimbabwe, the author’s birthplace. Her follow-up, Glory, features animals as characters. I was initially mystified. Who would try to match Orwell’s allegorical masterpiece

Confused lives: It’s Getting Dark, by Peter Stamm, reviewed

The Swiss writer Peter Stamm’s inscrutable, alienated outsiders make bizarre choices to escape stifling mundanity. Their discontent suggests malaise, something Stamm accentuates in his spare prose. The result is a distilled essence of unease: the reader is uncomfortable, but can’t look away. This masterful combination of fundamental themes, explored without embellishment through confused lives, has

Mind games: the blurred line between fact and fiction

Readers of Case Study unfamiliar with its author’s previous work might believe they have stumbled on a great psychotherapy scandal. We’ve all heard of past psychiatric controversies — forced lobotomies, the incarceration of single mothers, false memory syndrome — and of R.D. Laing, whose unconventional techniques were not always beneficial to the patient. Well, here