Good Day All
Today I host a review on a blogtour for Unspeakable Things by Sophey Kersey. To see a wonderful trailer for this book please follow this link
Sarah moves back into her abandoned childhood home, hoping to connect with what’s left of her family. She is thrilled to learn about her long-dead mother from Uncle John, who runs the Woodlands Clinic nearby.
Then he tells her that her mother tried to kill her and died a mental patient at Woodlands. But is the truth even more shocking than that?
Sarah’s desperate search for what really happened to her mother rocks her marriage, career and friendships. Can she discover the family’s bitter secret before her baby is born?
Or will she go mad trying?
Stolen from life: Sarah’s hypnosis
When I’m writing, I steal a lot from life. I don’t know if that makes me wise for sticking to what I know, or lazy for not bothering to invent things. Either way, nuggets of real-life weirdness that I have treasured away, fascinated, resurface in my fictional worlds.
In chapter 21 of Unspeakable Things, Sarah allows herself to be hypnotised by her uncle, who runs a mental health clinic. He recommends hypnotherapy as a way of releasing buried memories of her mother, who died when she was four.
As the hypnosis begins, Sarah is trusting and relaxed, but sceptical that he will manage to hypnotise her.
She opened her eyes by mistake and stared at a teddy bear on the wall. You couldn’t be hypnotised with your eyes open, but tiredness and peace had made dead weights of her limbs. Could she even move if she wanted to? Normal life was suspended in the stillness. She could hear Uncle John breathing. His voice was quiet, but very close. ‘You are going to remember something that happened here when you were a child.’
The yellow wallpaper with the teddies peeled away in one sheet, like a calendar page in an old film, showing the passing of time. Underneath was the old brown paper, with faded flowers. As she watched, the brown went darker, and the flowers glowed bright as new. ‘Something very bad,’ said Uncle John.
You might have assumed that the peeling wallpaper was invented – it is such a filmic cliché. In fact it is based on a true story told by a tutor when I was at university.
He went for hypnosis, but doubted that it would work. He was pondering that he felt completely awake and normal, but then he looked at the wall and saw the wallpaper torn away in whole sheets, again and again, finally revealing a different pattern underneath. For the first time, he remembered a childhood trauma in which his sister fell in the fire and was badly burnt.
Nuggets from other people’s lives are a godsend, but there’s no substitute for personal experience, and I have had my own brush with hypnotherapy which I hope makes Sarah’s realistic.
I went to a hypnotherapy session as a chaperone, accompanying a young person suffering from anxiety. After putting the actual client at ease, the hypnotherapist invited me to relax and experience the session for myself.
Being hypnotised is an oddly split experience: a part of me was conscious and rational, assessing what was going on and not feeling particularly impressed. Another part was following the therapist’s quiet instructions and visualising the scenes she suggested. I was in a balloon flying above the ground. I could make the balloon go where I wanted and I could throw anything negative out of it. This all seemed rather fanciful, but I hoped it would be helpful to the young man.
Hypnosis felt like a state between waking and sleeping, almost like lucid dreaming. No childhood traumas emerged for me and the wallpaper stayed stuck to the walls. But the peace I felt was extraordinary. As we walked out into the street, I still felt light, positive and incredibly relaxed.
But the experience fed the darkness in Unspeakable Things. Hypnotherapy left me so relaxed that I felt almost vulnerable. Anxiety is an over-reaction of our necessary response to danger. What if relaxation leaves us unable to respond to a real threat?
Sarah feels ‘a gentle unravelling within’ as she is hypnotised, and is ‘muffled by a great blanket of calm’ afterwards.
What if her kindly therapist doesn’t have her best interests at heart?