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Booker Longlist 2022: Case Study by Graeme Macrae Burnet

Case Study by Graeme Macrae Burnet – reviewed by BookWorm, Lisa, Jen, and Susie

From the Booker Website: Graeme Macrae Burnet offers a dazzlingly inventive – and often wickedly humorous – meditation on the nature of sanity, identity and truth itself.

‘I have decided to write down everything that happens, because I feel, I suppose, I may be putting myself in danger.’

London, 1965. An unworldly young woman believes that a charismatic psychotherapist, Collins Braithwaite, has driven her sister to suicide. Intent on confirming her suspicions, she assumes a false identity and presents herself to him as a client, recording her experiences in a series of notebooks. But she soon finds herself drawn into a world in which she can no longer be certain of anything. Even her own character…

So what did our panel think of this book? Keep reading to find out.

BookWorm’s Thoughts:  Wow this one really messed with my head in a good way and that is totally the point of the novel. Is it real? How much is real? Who is real? What does real even mean?

Writing quality: 4/5
Originality: 4/5
Character development: 3/4
Plot development: 3/4
Overall enjoyment: 2/2
Total: 16/20

Lisa’s thoughts: The author uses different perspectives to paint a picture of an unusual therapist named Arthur Collins Braithwaite, one of his patients, “Dorothy,” and her sister who is also his patient. Some chapters are from the point of view of a biographer, others from the sister’s diary, and then a small section from a fictionalized account that the therapist wrote of his patient.  The use of these different perspectives, as well as one of the characters using an assumed identity, all dance around the question of who is the “true” self?  Is there even such a thing? I don’t always like fiction that is heavy on philosophical questions, but this novel was written very cleverly and is just entertaining to read. Of course as a psychologist I was horrified by the practices of this so-called therapist, but finding him despicable (from every perspective) adds to enjoyment of the book. Probably not the winner, but a good read. 

Writing quality: 4/5
Originality: 4/5
Character development: 3/4
Plot development: 4/4
Overall enjoyment: 2/2
Total: 17/20

Jen’s Thoughts: I struggle rating this book. On the one hand it was probably the most entertaining book I’ve read so far from the longlist candidates on the other hand it had much more of a popular fiction feel to it than I expected for a longlist nominee. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. Accessible and entertaining books can also be beautifully written and thought provoking. This book is certainly thought-provoking. The focus on therapy/untherapy and the conceptualization of the self was interesting, more so to me as a psychologist. I also typically enjoy books that blur the lines between reality and fiction, I like unreliable narrators, and I like the use of multiple sources to create a full picture. It wasn’t my favorite book on the list, and I’m not sure it merits a spot on the shortlist, but I was thoroughly entertained.

Writing quality: 4/5
Originality: 4/5
Character development: 3.5/4
Plot development: 3/4
Overall enjoyment: 2/2
Total: 16.5/20

Susie’s Thoughts: As a therapist, my interest in the novel was piqued, however as a reader who doesn’t particularly enjoy non-fiction, I found the faux biography stream interminably boring and a hard slog to get through. The alternative stream was more entertaining, however the shift between the two was jarring and ultimately made for a less than rewarding reading experience. 

Writing quality: 3/5
Originality: 3/5
Character development: 3/4
Plot development: 1/4
Overall enjoyment: .5/2
Total: 10.5/20

So what did you think of Case study? Have you read it? Do you want to read it? Which judge do you most agree with?

Our panel’s current rankings:
The Colony 18.8
The Trees 16.4
Oh William 15.6
Small Things Like These 15.3
Case Study 15
Booth 13.7
Night crawling 11.08

One Comment Post a comment
  1. Remedial Stitcher #

    This is going on my list. I picked up His Bloody Project from Audible Plus though, since Case Study isn’t available yet from any of my sources (other than buying it, which I’ll decide about once I’ve listened to His Bloody Project).


    August 25, 2022

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