Book Review: The Premonitions Bureau - Sam Knight

Book Cover.It's only part-way through the first chapter that you realise that this is all true! There really was a Premonitions Bureau running in the UK (albeit under the auspices of sensationalist reporters). People gave serious study to the idea that some people could foretell specific tragedies before they occurred. Books were written, television interviews were given, national campaigns were run.

And in the end... Nothing.

This is the story of mental health failings across the board. Not just in the way the UK institutionalised so many people who needed care and compassion, but also about the consequences of enabling people with severe delusions.

It's a grimly hilarious book. It never pokes fun at those who were convinced they were seers - instead it snarks about the institutions around them.

The male [hospital] wards were named after celebrated men from the county, such as Charles Darwin and A. E. Housman, and the female wards were named after trees because no one could find a list of famous Shropshire ladies.

I came away from it fascinated at how easy it was for people to go down the wrong path. I don't think any of the subjects had ill-intent; but there was mutual exploitation.

Astonishing from start to finish. In the end, it is a biography of tragedy. So many lives wasted in the pursuit of the futile.

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