The Sleeping Beauties
And Other Stories of Mystery Illness
by Suzanne O’Sullivan
Dr. Suzanne O’Sullivan is an Irish neurologist who has travelled the world to explore cases of functional neurological disorder, also called mass hysteria. She details her findings in her book The Sleeping Beauties. These cases range from children in Sweden displaying mass resignation syndrome, where children of immigrants of uncertain status are comatose despite normal EEG studies, to the well-documented case of Le Roy NY.
I remember reading about the case of the girls of Le Roy New York, who were overcome with a twitching disorder. I remember the conclusion was mass hysteria and, as with other stories that make the headlines, the girls and their story were quickly forgotten.
Of current interest is Dr. O’Sullivan’s contention that the Havana Syndrome (still on-going as of this book review) could be considered a functional neurological disorder, however, “the U.S. intelligence services have not reached a consensus on or a formal determination of the cause of the Havana syndrome.” It will be interesting to see what, if any, final conclusions are drawn after careful study.
I believe that anthropologists would find this book of interest, as some of the functional neurological disorders are firmly rooted in native culture, such as the Miskito People or indigenous people of the Mosquito Coast in Nicaragua, some of whom have a condition called Grisi Siknis.
As for the book itself, while the subject itself is quite interesting, I think most casual readers would consider this a bit of a slog.
However, if the subject interests you, then this is a book you should most definitely read.
[Thank you to NetGalley and the author for the advanced ebook copy in exchange for my honest and objective opinion which I have given here.]
Review posted: 25 November 2021