Aged nine Simon Hattenstone one day woke up with a headache. By ten he had lost half his body weight, talked baby talk and looked retarded. The medical profession labelled him a malingerer. When he resurfaced it was to an alien environment every bit as terrifying as the one he'd just escaped from.

"Out of It describes three harrowing years, from nine to 12, when Hattenstone had encephalitis, a raging infection of his brain that probably developed from something as mundane as a grazed knee. Doctors dismissed his condition as a cold, flu and then, when he didn't recover, as malingering and, eventually, as mental illness.

The book's passionate tone is shocking, even more so for those who know the writer as so laid-back to be almost comatose. "I was thinking quicker than I could type - it was like a haemorrhage, I couldn't keep pace with my thoughts," he says. "I wanted it to sound like a kid writing it, and so it was rushed and angry."

                                                                                     The Independent, 16 September 1998

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