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Darkness Visible

The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2015.

by Nicholas Lezard

… The book’s honesty is both fuelled and exemplified by his accounts of his own major depressive episodes, which are by no means self-indulgent but allow fellow-sufferers to know they are not alone, and allow non-sufferers to gain some idea of the agony of the condition. (It is difficult, he points out, to get depressives to meet and discuss their illness, as they’re often too depressed to get out of bed; moreover, the depressed are, in his phrase, “incompetent lobbyists”, so it is hard to get the condition onto the political health-care agenda.)

… This, to my knowledge, is now the definitive lay text on the subject. Solomon charts the history, the science, and even the philosophy of depression with an industry and thoroughness that must have been hell for him to achieve. A mild warning: although this is by no means a book whose readership should be confined to the truly depressed, or those who know and care for them, the warily healthy should brace themselves when reading it. I cantered through the first 100 or so pages — it is a very well-written book, not without humour — feeling progressively more chipper: I found my suspicion that I do not suffer unduly from depression increasingly confirmed. However, as Solomon himself says at one point, those who read The Noonday Demon carefully will learn how to be depressed. But that’s no reason not to read it. Knowledge, in this instance, is most certainly power.

(To read the full review, please visit The Guardian.)