Falling into the Fire

Pages: 256
Subject: Popular Science
Imprint: Oneworld

Falling into the Fire

A Psychiatrist's Encounters with the Mind in Crisis

Christine Montross

An acclaimed writer-doctor shares moving stories of mental illness
9781780746418 (19 Feb 2015)
RRP £8.99

The Book

A woman habitually self-harms, eating light bulbs, a box of nails, zips, and a steak knife. A new mother is admitted with incessant visions of hurting her child. A recent university graduate, dressed in a tunic and declaring that love emanates from everything around him, is brought to A&E by his alarmed girlfriend. These are among the patients new consultant physician Christine Montross meets during rounds at her hospital's locked inpatient ward as she struggles to understand the mysteries of the mind, most especially when the tools of modern medicine are failing us.

Additional Information

Subject Popular Science
Pages 256
Imprint Oneworld


About the Author

Dr Christine Montross is Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behaviour at Brown University and a practising inpatient psychiatrist with an MFA in poetry. Her writing has appeared in literary journals and women's magazines as well as the New York Times. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island.


‘Compelling… Falling into the Fire is a fine addition to a body of writing - including the work of Paul Broks, Kay Redfield Jamison and Oliver Sacks.'

- Observer

'Christine Montross is the latest recruit to our distinguished line of literary psychologists… Montross goes into a great deal of interesting detail.'

- Daily Mail


- Press Association

'With humanity and clarity, psychiatrist and poet Christine Montross intersperses the harrowing stories of five of the patients she met and treated… her compassion shines through.'

- Metro

'Fascinating… [Montross] is very good at exploring the ethical issues raised by her practice… that there are no certain answers to these questions only makes them more absorbing… Montross writes beautifully.' 

- Telegraph

‘This account by a practising psychiatrist is the kind of confession doctors aren't supposed to make: that they don't always know what to do, and they may spend their entire working lives learning on the job… revealing.'

- Independent

‘Lucid, fluent [and] absorbing… nestles into a burgeoning genre of mental health books focusing on individual patient experiences rather than self-help prescriptions' 

- Sunday Business Post

'These stories are fascinating in the macabre way that psychiatric case studies can be, but Falling into the Fire is not a mere catalogue of human oddities… Her patients' neurons are certainly misfiring, but these individuals have just as certainly led beleaguered lives with fractured relationships… Powerful.' 

- Washington Post

'An absorbing glimpse into the darker rooms of the human mind. Christine Montross offers a personal guided tour through fascinating case histories and reveals how very much our minds are our selves, and not always operating in our own best interests.'

- Andrea Gillies, author of Keeper and The White Lie

'A mind-boggling inventory of psychiatric pathologies… Dr Montross, an award-winning poet before attending medical school, is passionate about her work and her patients' plight… The book emphasizes neither their madness nor our sanity in the face of mental disease, but our fragile and shared humanity.'

- New York Times

'Falling Into the Fire is as good an account of the labyrinth of mental health care as you're likely to read. [Montross's] work in critical care psychiatric settings is the source material, and she launches from discussions of clients into larger questions about the nature of psychiatry and of mental health. Montross writes beautifully about the deep-seated illnesses that challenge therapist and psychiatrists.'

- Daily Beast

'Montross exposes and explores the challenging, sometimes paradoxical role of psychiatric professionals… Her intriguing analysis is anchored by [a] humble and empathetic voice.'

- Publishers Weekly

'Her poetic insights into how tragedies may be understood stir empathy, as Montross delves into the details of the history of her patients… This beautifully written book doesn't offer answers but rather encourages compassion.'

- Library Journal

'Montross writes of [her] encounters with a dramatic flair, ever empathetic but unsparing of occasional negative feelings, fears and frustrations... As an antidote to her daily coping with extreme behaviors, Montross writes serenely of a home life with her family. No triumphs of modern psychiatry on display here, but rather a sympathetic portrait of seriously ill patients that could guide future practitioners on the art of helping, if not always healing, the sick.'

- Kirkus Reviews

'Montross explores the practical, emotional, and philosophical challenges of working with patients whose illnesses of the mind are often intractable and deeply disturbing'

- The New Yorker

'A piercing portrait of psychiatry... Montross seamlessly weaves together history, reportage and memoir while reflecting on the difficult questions that arise as she digs into psychiatry's past.'

- Los Angeles Times