Book of the Month – July 2021

The Sleeping Beauties by Suzanne O'Sullivan

Our July choice is The Sleeping Beauties by Suzanne O'Sullivan

Sleeping sickness, strange behaviour and mass hysteria... In The Sleeping Beauties, neurologist Suzanne O'Sullivan explores 'psychosomatic illnesses', travelling the world collecting fascinating stories of culture-bound syndromes.

Inspired by a poignant encounter with the sleeping refugee children of Sweden, the Wellcome Book Prize-winning writer visits other communities who have also been subject to outbreaks of so-called ‘mystery’ illnesses. From a derelict post-Soviet mining town in Kazakhstan, to the Mosquito Coast of Nicaragua via an oil town in Texas, to the heart of the Maria Mountains in Colombia, O’Sullivan hears remarkable stories from a fascinating array of people, and attempts to unravel their complex meaning while asking the question: who gets to define what is and what isn’t an illness?

Reminiscent of the work of Oliver Sacks, Stephen Grosz and Henry Marsh, The Sleeping Beauties is a moving and unforgettable scientific investigation with a very human face.

BOOK OF THE MONTH LIVE Q&A WITH SUZANNE O'SULLIVAN WILL TAKE PLACE ON THURSDAY 22 JULY 2021, 7PM

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Further reading

New Statesman - When Illness is Invisible 

The Times - The mystery of the refugee children in Sweden who won’t wake up 

About the author

Dr Suzanne O’Sullivan has been a consultant in neurology since 2004, first working at The Royal London Hospital and now as a consultant in clinical neurophysiology and neurology at The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, and for a specialist unit based at the Epilepsy Society. She specialises in the investigation of complex epilepsy and also has an active interest in psychogenic disorders. Suzanne’s first book It's All in Your Head, won both the Wellcome Book Prize and the Royal Society of Biology Book Prize and her critically acclaimed Brainstorm was published in 2018.

About Hay Festival's Book of the Month

Hay Festival's Book of the Month is our monthly recommendation of a title we love and think holds particular resonance today. This is our chance to celebrate great works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry – new and old.

Throughout the month, we'll share interesting links and articles relating to our selection on social media using #HBOTM and invite you all to get involved with your questions and comments.

Each month we'll have a free digital event with the author for you to ask them questions and explore their ideas further.

If you'd like to recommend a book for consideration, please share on social media using #HBOTM.

Happy reading!