The Illness Lesson: Strange symptoms – and treatments

Book review: Claire Beams has written a memorable story about women’s minds and bodies

Clare Beams: Her writing has been praised for its feminist insights.

Clare Beams: Her writing has been praised for its feminist insights.

The colonisation of the female body by centuries of male medics has been the subject of some excellent non-fiction in recent years. Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams was a stylish manifesto on “all the ways a woman can hurt”. Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez used data to show how gender blindness in medical trials is harmful for women.

On the home front, Sinéad Gleeson’s award-winning collection of essays Constellations gave, among other topics, a startling account of the indignities endured by female patients at the hands of male doctors. Women writing about the body is not a new tradition – think of Virginia Woolf, Susan Sontag, Nuala O’Faoláin, Anne Enright – but in this MeToo era there is a notably wider interest and readership.

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