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Views & Reviews Review of the Week

A far from fairytale romance

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 12 May 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c2570
  1. Richard Hurley, assistant magazine editor, BMJ
  1. rhurley{at}

    How do people cope with acute mental illness in their loved ones? They don’t always get a happy ending if this play, which Richard Hurley saw, is anything to go by

    The slick but solemn Polar Bears tells of an intense romance that ends in catastrophe despite the best intentions. This first play by Mark Haddon, author of the top selling novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, considers what life is like for those who live with and care for people who have severe mental illness.

    Kay, an aspiring children’s writer, has a bipolar spectrum disorder. In good times she can be energetic, rude, funny, and full of optimism. But in bad times she can be consumed in fantasy and lost to another world. She has a new found partner—John, a caring and loyal philosophy lecturer. He wants to love and to help her, but Kay’s mother and brother are cautious: they’ve seen all this before. John is just another in a string of men, and her mother and brother know that beyond …

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