A Smell of Burning: The Story of Epilepsy by Colin Grant - review by John Gribbin

John Gribbin

Ominous Auras

A Smell of Burning: The Story of Epilepsy

By

Jonathan Cape 242pp £16.99 order from our bookshop
 

Colin Grant begins his story of epilepsy by explaining that he was drawn to write about the subject because of his brother, Christopher, an epilepsy sufferer. As it happens, Grant is a trained doctor as well as a writer and broadcaster, so he brings a core of expert knowledge and skill as a communicator to the story. I cannot claim any medical expertise, but I, like Grant, have a special interest in the subject, since I too have a family member who suffers from epilepsy. But you don’t need any special connection to appreciate the absorbing and sometimes horrifying tale he has to tell.

The horror comes from the grim treatment meted out to epileptics in the past – and not always the distant past. Grant tells the story more or less chronologically, interleaving it with episodes from his brother’s life and focusing on different aspects of ‘treatment’, if that is not too polite

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