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Submitted Literature

Dr Cipriano's Cell

By Jason Lee


Curious and odd novel exploring in parts the role of psychiatrist and notions of ‘what happens’ when psychiatric clinicians become unwell themselves.


The novel revolves around Dr Cipriano, a psychiatric registrar on a UK adult inpatient ward who, following the apparent suicide, or murder, of his criminal brother, slowly descends into a kind of madness replete with voice hearing (though this can be read as Dr Cipriano interpreting his own thoughts as voices) and levels of (understandable) paranoia around the nefarious individuals that his brother died in debt to. The novel is comical in parts, though it simultaneously contains elements that will be recognisably, but depressively, existent in current psychiatric practice. It is also partly a mystery novel, propelling the reader through the narrative at quite a pace. Notably, an array of psychiatric disorders are presented through the characters of doctor and patients alike. No one, in this novel, is immune from madness.  


Jason Lee’s novel reminded me of some of Will Self’s satires on psychiatry, and also contains echoes of postmodern novels, if not in its structure and style then certainly in its themes – the ward which Dr Cipriano is admitted to becomes a Big Brother Reality TV style unit where patients are voted off and psychiatric illness affords, for some of the patients, a strange kind of celebrity. In fact (see quotes below) the TV experiment works more effectively as a cure for some patients than decades within the psychiatric system, a wry testimony perhaps to our current age of Celebrity.  


Key Themes:

  • Professional / Occupational Stress
  • Psychosis
  • Revealing Reads

Significant Quotes / Pages

5 - 'Most of the cases of psychosis Dr Cipriano was coming across were to do with cameras, and there was a blurring between mad psychotic delusions and reality, given Britain had more CCTV cameras than any other place in Europe. Essentially, paranoia had crept in everywhere, and Orwell and Huxley had been proven right.’


23 – ‘Young girls with eating problems, middle aged women with fertility problems, young men with drug and alcohol problems, old women with identity problems. The list was endless. There was no easy way out of this labyrinth. Pills provided a cushion, they numbed the experience, but the problem remained.’


 76 – ‘The external voice had stopped, if that’s what it was, external, for the time being anyway, and part of him regretted this, as he felt he needed some kind of personal problem to focus on, to get him away from other people’s ailments.’


Reference: Jason, Lee. 2010. Dr Cipriano's Cell. chipmunkapublishing, 2010


- Charley Baker
Date Review Submitted: Friday 16th April 2010