Shaw, Fiona

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Shaw, Fiona

PERSONAL: Married, husband's name Hugh; children: two daughters.

ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Viking Publicity, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England.

CAREER: Writer.


Out of Me: The Story of a Postnatal Breakdown (memoir), Viking (London, England), 1997, published as Composing Myself: A Journey through Postpartum Depression, Steerforth (South Royalton, VT), 1998.


SIDELIGHTS: British writer Fiona Shaw is the author of Composing Myself: A Journey through Postpartum Depression, which was published in England under the title Out of Me: The Story of a Postnatal Breakdown. Shaw's book chronicles her battle with postpartum depression following the birth of her second daughter. The condition affects an estimated ten to twenty percent of all new mothers, and in Shaw's case her debilitating depression led to hospitalization, an attempt to starve or otherwise harm herself, and eventual electric-shock therapy. Shaw began to write down her experiences in an attempt to jar her memories, many of which had been lost as a result of the radical treatments. She believed her breakdown was not caused by a biochemical imbalance, the prevailing theory of the time, but instead a result of more deeply seeded problem. Andrea Gollin, in a review for the Washington Post Book World, quoted Shaw as saying that the "breakdown had been like a collision with an iceberg. I knew from the start it was only the tip."

Through her writing, Shaw pieces together the traumas of her childhood, including her parents' divorce, pretended back pain that led to her undergoing two unnecessary surgeries, and a bout with bulimia. Composing Myself is a collection of her experiences and conclusions, divided into four parts. In a review for Psychiatry Online, Jeffrey L. Geller commented that "part one,… the account of Shaw's postpartum depression, is excellent and is worth the purchase of the book. The author's description of her symptoms, and, more poignantly, her response to them, is powerful…. The reader has a very good sense of Shaw's symptoms, the phenomenology of her depression, and her pain and agony." He went on to observe, however, that the subsequent sections are redundant and maintained that the subject could have been done equal justice in a long-article format. A contributor to Publishers Weekly called Shaw's book a "powerful, skillfully written memoir," and Whitney Scott, in Booklist, commented that Shaw's volume is "sure to be compared with Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar and William Styron's Darkness Visible," noted works on the effects of depression on the psyche. Gollin concluded that Composing Myself is a "meticulously crafted, mesmerizing account," calling it "honest and lucid."



Shaw, Fiona, Composing Myself: A Journey through Postpartum Depression, Steerforth (South Royalton, VT), 1998.


Booklist, April, 1998, Whitney Scott, review of Composing Myself: A Journey through Postpartum Depression, p. 1290.

Library Journal, June 1, 1998, Roberta S. Johnson, review of Composing Myself, p. 76.

Publishers Weekly, February 16, 1998, review of Composing Myself, p. 191.

Washington Post Book World, May 24, 1998, Andrea Gollin, "Memoirs," review of Composing Myself, p. X6.


Belief Net Web site, (December 8, 2004), "Fiona Shaw."

Psychiatry Online, (December 8, 2004), "Fiona Shaw."