Book Review - Sybil

A true story that will drown you into the mind of a woman possessed with sixteen different personalities

Words Yvonne Jacob

I consider myself to be a picky reader. And why not? Reading consumes a lot of time and you obviously want to invest that in a good book. I have been a sucker for classic novels and I’ve spent a lot of time re-reading Wuthering Heights and for the record, Emma? Not a fan! On a recent hunt for my next book I came across Sybil by Flora Rheta Schreiber and the book had me at “possessed”.

But the kind of possession we’re talking about here is different. The book revolves around Sybil (the name is a pseudonym) who suffers from constant blackouts that last for hours or days at times and she wakes up in different places with no recollection of why or how she got there. Sybil knows there’s something wrong with her but somehow she refuses to call it what it is and often finds herself getting restless and tired of things that she just can’t add up anymore. Her condition starts to deteriorate and she decides to consult a psychoanalyst, Dr. Wilbur who is determined to help her and find out the cause behind her blackouts. The treatment was bringing out a positive change in Sybil, at least that’s what she thought. Until the day she walks in for her appointment and the doctor asks her “How are you today?” to which she replies, “I’m fine. But Sybil isn’t. She was so sick she couldn’t come. So I came instead.”


Over the course of time, Dr. Wilbur discovers the different personalities that are housed in Sybil’s body. Each of them have different names and they all have their own stories and roles to play in the moments Sybil suffers from one of her blackouts. Each of the sixteen personalities is aware of each other’s existence, except Sybil. The book goes on to unravel the way Dr. Wilbur explores each personality and hopes to make Sybil’s condition better with their help. Although the authenticity of the case has been a topic of controversy for the longest time, the author has provided a testament in the book that claims she was present for most of Sybil’s appointments, studying her case for 10 years.

Although I must warn you, the story unfolds into something far more complex and it also gets unsettling at some point. That aside, the book is sure to drag you into depths from the very beginning. Sybil is undoubtedly a great read which makes it completely worthwhile.