South London, the summer of '89. Dan's been sectioned and he's trying to work out why. Life in Woodland Park Hospital is no picnic, but it does have its moments.
…He was plugged into the main source, lit up. He could live on light. He could feel it, taste its liquid gold running through his veins. It was love, love… Love that he couldn’t see. Or touch. That could never be taken away… What was going on?
I read it practically at one sitting … House of Bread is very impressive. Vivid, painful and completely engrossing.’
‘This is a brilliant book in all respects. His incomprehension at his predicament, being detained under the mental health act, forms the initial part of the narrative. Gradually we learn the events that lead to Dan’s incarceration, on the way discovering how quickly one becomes a non-person when caught up in the mental health system. Friends one has had all one’s life find nothing to say when faced with observing discomfort. Fellow patients become closer than family. The advantages of psychiatric medication are quickly shown to be far outweighed by the appalling side effects – the ‘Largactil shuffle’ and the drooling rigidity that accompanies it. Dan eventually learns almost by accident that he is a manic-depressive and that his colour and number (7) filled world of complete invulnerability is paralleled by the depths of despair and utter hopelessness of suicidal depression. That he survives his stay and finds genuineness and indeed love in the process must fill the reader with hope. This book is a must for anyone with either a passion for a good read or an interest in mental health. The description of the roller coaster highs and lows of manic depression is perfect in every detail and challenges us on every page. A must for professionals and those it affects personally.’
‘This is an extremely well written, intelligent, sharp, funny, sad and philosophical novel. The setting is extremely well handled. Dan is sectioned and the plot cleverly builds around what took place before he was sectioned and how this is affecting his life and the life of his friends and family. He’s got ‘clinical happiness’ and I’ve not seen a better descriptive fictional account of this disorder. Contemporary fiction tends to be aimed at the twenty/thirty-something market, but this novel would be bought by readers of all ages. The book is both challenging and readable – a skill which not all writers possess.’ Publisher’s Reader review
‘I loved this book. It tells us about the many who are having a very difficult time in their lives and brings ‘mental illness’ into a humane context so that we can identify with the characters and feel love and sympathy. To make it seem not the secret terrible shame is a great achievement. I was brought up with mental illness, my aunt didn’t speak after a breakdown when she was about 18 and she spent the rest of her life as a sort of shell of a person, it was heartbreaking for my family especially my grandmother. We never knew when she would have a turn. Thank you, Amanda, for describing the experience so well, I feel it will have helped many.’
‘I was moved to email you since recently reading ‘House of Bread’ by Amanda Nicol. I am a very selective reader and it has joined the ranks of ‘unputdownable’, I read the book in one sitting and am recommending it to friends. I found it be both humane and human, well written, accessible, darkly and appropriately humorous and definitely required reading. Anyone who has been on a ‘wobble’ (just about everyone I imagine) can identify with the experience of Dan to a greater or lesser degree. It is not in the least a depressing account of subject matter that can and has been stigmatised. I feel that this book would be a fantastic addition to recommended reading for young teenagers at school, normalising that which can seem both isolating and terrifying.’
‘Amanda has crafted a very well-written novel, and fully deserves the praise that has been heaped upon her in other reviews of the work. It is, in turns, funny, touching and thought-provoking. Her portrayal of the vulnerable Dan is very effective and I was immensely satisfied that the ending showed hope for his future. Her obvious knowledge of the mental health care system and the treatments used enriched the story, which was strong enough to stand on its own. The characters were sympathetic, the dialogue wonderful and I found it an excellent, life-affirming read.’
'...it's a most enjoyable book, and an important book, and a very well written book.'
'I bought House of Bread because of the artwork by Roland Jarvis on the cover! Happily it's a great read too. It's funny, touching, enlightening,and ultimately, life affirming. Amanda Nicol is clearly a very intelligent,talented and,I would suggest,compassionate and empathetic author. Her style is that of a writer with the intelligence and ability to write something that is easy and enjoyable to read - avoiding obfuscation and sesquipedalianism (sorry,couldn't resist using one of my favourite words!!) - whilst retaining a very high standard. I'm now looking forward to reading Amanda's other novels.'
'House of Bread is an excellent read, and I can’t imagine for the life of me why a mainstream publisher hasn’t picked it up.'
‘…there’s a wealth of detail in here (the author writes very, very well by the way) so that you know the author has been there, done that. It’s not a novel which requires a plot; it’s just about a stay in a mental hospital. It’s completely undramatised and all the more effective for it. The problem is that I don’t suppose the author will produce anything else – what would you expect to follow on from this anyway? You know better than I do. And you also know whether or not you can sell such a novel. If you tell the sales department you want to consider a novel about a sectioned manic-depressive, they’ll groan. But given that’s what it is, it’s very, very well done. It’s hard to work out quite what sets it apart from the usual slush-pile loonie-bin saga, but something definitely does.’ (Charming publisher’s reader review)