Book review: Heavy Light by Horatio Clare
Just two years after he descended into mania, Horatio Clare explains how in a ‘game-changing memoir’
This “game-changing memoir” by the nature writer and broadcaster Horatio Clare tells the story of his descent into madness and mania, said Helen Brown in The Daily Telegraph. Clare’s slide started in late 2018, at a time when he was regularly smoking cannabis to help cope with stress and exhaustion. On a family skiing holiday in Innsbruck, he became convinced that he was a “major player in a covert international conflict”, and that the resort was swarming with secret agents. Returning home, his delusions worsened: as “part of a mission to secure global peace”, it was his duty to marry Kylie Minogue – but only after faking his death by driving his Toyota into a Yorkshire reservoir. Clare was eventually sectioned, and was treated in a psychiatric hospital. It is remarkable that a “mind so recently dominated by straight-to-DVD fantasies” is capable, two years later, of writing about them with “such acute self-awareness” – not to mention gentle humour.
Clare’s account of his breakdown and treatment certainly “rings true”, said Stuart Kelly in The Scotsman. But when, in its second half, the book “morphs from confessional memoir” to a more general discussion of mental health treatment, it becomes less successful. Clare is deeply sceptical that drugs are the answer: he attributes his own recovery not to the aripiprazole he took in hospital, but to his subsequent intensive therapy. Yet he becomes so “strident” in this view that he starts to sound, again, a little manic: as if he were casting himself as the “messianic agent, exposing Big Pharma”. Clare certainly advances a “high-stakes argument”, but he has surely earned the right to his opinion, said Megan Agnew in The Sunday Times. What “a gift” it is for the rest of us, to have “such an articulate agent, reporting back from the far edges of the mind”.
Chatto & Windus 352pp £16.99; The Week Bookshop £13.99
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