The Book vs. the Movie: Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan

About two months ago, I posted my Autumn 2020 reading list and while I haven’t checked them all off my list there are a few that I have.  One of the books I have already finished is Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan.

Several months ago, my mom and I watched Brain on Fire on Netflix and ever since I have wanting to know more about what Susannah Cahalan went through.

Here’s a brief summary of the book from Goodreads:

“When twenty-four-year-old Susannah Cahalan woke up alone in a hospital room, strapped to her bed and unable to move or speak, she had no memory of how she’d gotten there. Days earlier, she had been on the threshold of a new, adult life: at the beginning of her first serious relationship and a promising career at a major New York newspaper. Now she was labeled violent, psychotic, a flight risk. What happened?

In a swift and breathtaking narrative, Cahalan tells the astonishing true story of her descent into madness, her family’s inspiring faith in her, and the lifesaving diagnosis that nearly didn’t happen.”

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was a little more medical than the movie, however, I enjoyed that quite a bit. The movie seemed to focus on Cahalan’s illness and how it impacted her relationships with people whereas the book focused more on how her illness impacted her medically. Additionally, movie-watchers get to see the relationship between other people (i.e. her mom and dad’s relationship) –  this is not as apparent in the book. In short, in the book readers get to know Cahalan’s illness a little bit more and viewers of the movie get to know her personality more. 

Cahalan explains in the book, at the time of its writing, how there are periods of her life (when her illness was at its peak) that she doesn’t remember due to her illness. In my experience with the book and movie, viewers of the movie do not really get to see this that much.

Generally speaking, most people tend to say they prefer the book to the movie. However, when it comes to Brain on Fire I can safely say I like both equally.


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