‘In an ideal world you would stand at a crossroads, one big white sign pointing to SANITY, and the other to MADNESS, and in the broad light of day, with the sun on your back, you would make the only possible choice you could, and trot down the hill towards safety. Why make any other choice? The trouble is that when you personally get to that crossroads it’s nearly always midnight, you haven’t slept for a while, and some kids have been messing with the sign.’ – from Needleham
Needleham by Terry Simpson is a multi-faceted novel, full of fascinating detail and emotional depth. The writing is lucid and imaginative throughout. I was captivated from the start with the powerful descriptions of setting, and the characters.
Well-meaning Luke steals the show in parts as a simple but complex character with a rich, inner life. I could feel for him as he is drawn deeper into the world inside Needleham and faces challenges he could never have envisioned when he took up his post as an advocate.
Simpson is not afraid to delve into dark and disturbing issues related to attitudes towards psychiatric inmates, both past and present. Historical ideas are cleverly woven into the text, illuminating current thinking and broadening the context. Reality and fantasy, sanity and insanity, are skillfully called into question. The story becomes both incredibly sad and laugh-out-loud funny by twists and turns. The use of humour, often subtle and sardonic, works well.
A sinister undertone adds to the atmospheric quality and increases as the story develops, leading to the immensely satisfying, though thought-provoking, denouement. Needleham is a story that will linger with me long after finishing reading it. – Jean Davidson
‘Through the eyes of Luke, the new Patients’ Advocate at Needleham, we are treated to a detailed filleting of the mental health system of the all too recent past, written with keen attention to the shabby, bleak aspects of the hospital itself, where ‘coffee-coloured’ drinks are swallowed down and ‘carpeted areas of deserted arm chairs’ abound. Along the way, Terry Simpson breathes new life into comedy staples. Dark, sharp and laugh out loud funny – I loved it.’ – Mandy Sutter
‘Kafka’s The Castle meets One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest in Terry Simpson’s debut novel, Needleham. Based on the writer’s experience as patient adviser in a Yorkshire psychiatric hospital not unlike ‘Needleham’, one hopes this comic nightmare belongs in the past. Hope again! Needleham builds its world in unsettling and convincing detail.’ – Peter Spafford, Chapel FM
“At last! I’ve been waiting a long time for a book like this. A witty, astute and poignant satire on the mental health system. Highly recommended”. Professor Helen Spandler, Editor of Asylum: the radical mental health magazine