Award-winning science author and neurologist Suzanne O’Sullivan will move to Picador from Penguin Random House after her “waking coma” book was snapped up at auction.
The Sleeping Beauties will be published in April 2021 and is aimed at fans of Henry Marsh and Oliver Sacks, exploring how syndromes flourish within particular cultures.
It is the neurologist’s third book –her debut, It's All in Your Head (Vintage) won both the Wellcome Book Prize and the Royal Society of Biology Book Prize and the follow up, Brainstorm (Chatto & Windus), was published in May.
Picador’s non-fiction editorial director Georgina Morley acquired UK and Commonwealth rights to the title from Kirsty McLachlan at David Godwin Associates at auction.
The Sleeping Beauties is an exploration of different aspects of psychosomatic disorders, mass hysteria, culture bound syndromes and the idioms of distress. Culture bound syndromes are a set of symptoms that exist only within a particular society and there are more than 200 officially listed. The book uses a particular case as its starting point: more than 400 migrant children in Sweden who have fallen into a state of apathy, with some spending months or years in a "waking coma", according to a Picador spokesperson.
Reminiscent of the work of Sacks, Marsh and Stephen Grosz, the title is billed as “a remarkable scientific investigation with a very human face” according to a Picador spokesperson. It considers who defines psychiatric illness and what shapes the manner in which distress is communicated within a society.
O’Sullivan has been a consultant in neurology since 2004, first working at The Royal London Hospital and now as a consultant in clinical neurophysiology and neurology at The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, and for a specialist unit based at the Epilepsy Society. She specialises in the investigation of complex epilepsy and also has an active interest in psychogenic disorders.
She said: “Physical illness still demands more respect than psychological suffering. I’m fascinated by the way society influences that disparity and shapes our expressions of distress. I look forward to investigating it further and I really appreciate Picador’s obvious enthusiasm and support for the project.”
Morley said: “I’ve been a huge fan of Suzanne’s since I first read her brilliant It’s All in Your Head when it came out a couple of years ago and I couldn’t be more thrilled that she is coming to Picador for her new book, The Sleeping Beauties. Like her previous books, it promises to be both wonderfully humane and beautifully written, reminiscent of Oliver Sacks at his considerable best.”