Case Study by Graeme Macrae Burnet - review by Tom Williams

Tom Williams

Identity Parade

Case Study


Saraband 278pp £14.99

From the very beginning of Case Study, the reader is invited to consider the line between truth and fiction. Graeme Macrae Burnet’s book opens with a persuasive account, by an author named GMB, explaining how he came to learn about a series of notebooks concerning Collins Braithwaite, an eccentric, controversial psychotherapist who found fame and notoriety in the mid-1960s. These notebooks are offered up to the reader, ‘lightly edited, alongside my own biographical material’. Burnet has form in presenting ‘found’ objects in his books – the Booker-nominated His Bloody Project contained a memoir and court reports – and the documentary style here is highly convincing: there are cameos from R D Laing and Dirk Bogarde, and we are presented with the theory that Braithwaite’s work influenced Paul McCartney during the creation of Sgt Pepper. In an interview, Burnet said that he expects readers to google Collins Braithwaite to check if he is real (I did).

The central narrative concerns an anonymous young woman – the author of the notebooks – who is visiting Braithwaite as a client under an assumed name. She believes that Braithwaite drove her sister, Veronica, to suicide, and so she functions as something of a detective, intent on discovering

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