Lost and Found by Jules Montague reviewed

Lost and Found Book Cover Lost and Found
Jules Montague
Non Fiction
Hodder and Stoughton
March 8, 2018

An unforgettable book for fans of Henry Marsh and Atul Gawande about how we lose ourselves and those around us - and how we can be found again.

Who do we become when our minds misbehave? If a loved one changes as a result of a brain disorder, are they still the same person? Could a brain disorder enhance your identity rather than damage it? 

From dementia and brain injury to sleep disorders, coma, and multiple personality disorder, leading neurologist and journalist Dr Jules Montague explores what remains of the person left behind when the pieces of their mind go missing. Along the way she answers fascinating questions about how we remember, think and behave. Why do some memories endure and others fade? Why do you sometimes forget why you went into a room? And what if rather than losing memories, your mind creates false ones - are they still yours, and do they still make you, you?

Dr Jules Montague is a neurologist who spends her days helping people who are experiencing dementia and other brain disorders. Lost and Found explores aspects of personality and identity when something goes wrong in the brain. It is a wide ranging book. While it looks at neurology primarily it also brings in aspects of other disciplines and subjects. The main chapter headings are Memory, Personality and Consciousness. However each chapter has sub headings within them. These open with a case study introduction before exploring the topic more generally.

The opening section of the book was quite hard hitting and set the tone for the book well. A lady with a brain tumour tells her children she loves them; she didn’t do that before the tumour. Dr Montague is asked if it is their mother or the brain tumour talking. In part this case was the inspiration for the book as a whole. When is someone not the someone we knew and why?

In all sections of this book I found things that fascinated me and made me think. Having studied psychology some years ago the thoughts I had tended to be related to that subject. As such, when the author looks at the idea that, despite the fact you cannot remember what you did as a four year old at the age of 60, it does not mean you are not the same person I can appreciate the idea. Whether you come at this book from a neurological perspective or a psychological one there are commonalities.

For me the fact that this book can interest those with multidisciplinary perspectives is a real attraction. For example the author looks at light bulb memories and false memories – this will interest people with various perspectives. Similarly the idea that when we remember we are actually remembering the last time we remembered something is a concept that resonates across disciplines.

Extracting a selection of the notes I made when reading this I find the following
• “Tip of the tongue” problems
• Fugue and amnesia
• Dopamine, Parkisons and creativity (fascinating)
• Dreams and reality
• Identity when on life support or in a persistent vegetative state
It is clear that this book can be seen as very wide ranging indeed. I noted literature, philosophy and history as well as psychology and neurology in among the issues and text.

At the end of the book there is a very good concluding section which serves to tie up what has been covered in the book. There are extensive notes and a very decent index as one would expect from such a book.

When I requested a copy of this book I was a little unsure who it was really aimed at. Was it simply a collection of stories and case studies linked by themes or something deeper? For me it is that “something deeper” and is probably really an academic text. That is not to say that others will not want to read it however parts of it do require some understanding. Personally I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and parts I found very compelling reading. The other side of that is that some parts felt as though they were overlong or in need of a little judicious editing. However I am a “person in the street” reader for this subject area so that is not surprising. I’m happy to recommend this to anyone who has an interest in the subjects covered here.

Note – I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review