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Sink or Swim-bookcover

By: Saxby Pridmore

Sink or Swim

Pages: 142 Ratings: 4.7
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Things were different immediately following the Second World War. Everyone’s father had been ‘away’ and we all liked marching and uniforms. Everyone’s mother had been holding the country together and helping the grandparents. The author was born one year after the end of the war, suffered head injury, was troubled by dyslexia, had a funny name (a significant handicap in those times) and was raised by very odd parents.

Teachers, Cubs and the people living next door helped him sort things out (a bit), then he dipped briefly into the luscious sixties and eventually ground a path through conventional adulthood.

This is a first-hand account, clearly written by a professor of psychiatry at the University of Tasmania – his skills have been polished in the process of writing four hundred professional papers, chapters and books. It is powerful, informative, original and sympathetic.

There is mention of the milkman and baker being brought around by cart horses, getting the cane, the ill-advised closure of the mental hospital and the very latest electromagnetic treatment of mental disorders. There is darkness and humour and a good supply of quotes from the greatest minds in history.

Saxby Pridmore is a professor of psychiatry at the University of Tasmania, Australia. He was born at the end of the Second World War. In addition to psychiatry, he has specialist qualifications in addiction, pain management, neurology and public health. He was a champion boxer and is a successful poet. He was plagued by dyslexia and suffered head injury as a child. Home life was not easy, but he went on to achieve a successful academic career. He is married to Mary the Great and has two ‘excellent’ children. In 2006 he was made a Member of the Order of Australia.

“It might sound as if I’m feeling sorry for myself, but I’m not. I’m feeling grateful. These are the facts/events of a time.”

Customer Reviews
3 reviews
3 reviews
  • Paul Skerritt

    One can be wary of medical autobiographies which have a tendency to be boring, pretentious and badly written. Happily, this autobiography is none of these; it is engaging, interesting and beautifully written. The author identifies himself as a ‘baby boomer’. Even for those who are not ‘baby boomers’, the setting of the first part of the book in Australia of the fifties is a familiar one and it deserves to be recorded. I suspect that, apart from the world war, Australian society had not changed in the previous 50 years compared with the massive changes in the 50 years since.
    Similarly, I think that the environment of medical practice and education then represented the end of an era and would be incomprehensible to the modern medical reader. This enhances the educational value of the book.
    The view of the eras in the South Australian and Tasmanian communities is through the eyes of a distinguished
    academic psychiatrist and an extraordinary family. There is a great deal of entertainment in the many personal recollections studded with quotations.
    The author’s beginnings would have to be described as disadvantaged and his personal efforts to surmount them heroic although he did not quite describe it that way. The descriptions of his eccentric parents were always sympathetic, while bitterness is an attitude that is more familiar to psychiatrists. The author could easily have sunk under the weight of his background but managed to swim through it. But this is too much serious psychiatry. The book may be recommended as a wonderful read.

  • George Thomas

    I finished this wistful, funny, wise book wishing it were longer. Some parts of Saxby Pridmore’s life are mentioned, and psychiatry is such a fascinating and varied field that he could surely write at least one good memoir solely on this career.

  • Anne Henderson

    This memoir is in many ways a tribute to an Australia long past. The book mostly covers Pridmore’s early life as a boy, student and eventually graduate physician and psychiatrist. It is the story of the self-made in a country where perseverance and application can bring rewards. Along the way, Pridmore gives compelling insights to some of the oddities he encountered.

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