Literature & Psychoanalysis: Gwen Adshead on Attachment and Trauma in P. D. James’s Innocent Blood

Literature & Psychoanalysis: Gwen Adshead on Attachment and Trauma in P. D. James’s Innocent Blood

30th June 2021

Our hugely popular Literature & Psychoanalysis series resumes this year with renowned psychiatrist and psychotherapist Gwen Adshead presenting on the topic of attachment and trauma, as explored in P. D. James’s classic novel Innocent Blood (1980). The event is a must for fans of P. D. James and those wishing to get under the skin of how psychoanalysis can shine new light on literature. Dr Adshead will deliver a short lecture, discuss the issues that arise from her talk with series leader Arabel Charlaff and take questions from the audience.

Gwen Adshead
Dr Gwen Adshead is a pioneering psychiatrist and psychotherapist. As well as continuing to work part time at Broadmoor Hospital, Dr Adshead also works one day a week at a women’s prison. She has a master’s degree in medical law and ethics, and has published a number of academic books and over one hundred papers. She was honoured with the President’s Medal for services to psychiatry in July 2013; an honorary doctorate from St George’s Hospital Medical School in 2016; and she was the Gresham Professor of Psychiatry from 2014 to 2017. She is frequently interviewed in print and broadcast media, and recently appeared on the BBC’s Desert Island Discs and The Life Scientific. Dr Adshead has written The Devil You Know, co-authored with Eileen Horne, which will be published by Faber in June.

Arabel Charlaff
Arabel Charlaff is a psychodynamic psychotherapist, who has worked in the NHS, the higher education sector and private practice. Before retraining, Arabel worked as an editor, literary consultant and ghostwriter. She’s the founder of Characters on the Couch, a service that uses psychoanalytic theory to help novelists create fully realised characters. She teaches at the Faber Academy, and WPF Therapy and chairs the Faber Members Literature and Psychoanalysis lecture series.

Innocent Blood
Innocent Blood is a stand-alone thriller from P. D. James. Philippa Palfrey, adopted as a child, believes herself to be the motherless, illegitimate daughter of an aristocratic father. At eighteen she exercises her right to find out the truth. What she discovers will change her life forever. Philippa enters a new and terrifying world and soon comes to realise that she is not the only one interested in her parents’ whereabouts. Innocent Blood is both a mystery and a thriller, a superb novel that explores the themes of self-identity and the meaning of life.

The Devil You Know by Dr Gwen Adshead
I’m a psychiatrist and psychotherapist who works with violent offenders. Every violent crime is a tragedy, for the victims and their families as well as for the perpetrators. Over the years, I’ve come to think of my patients as survivors of a disaster where they are the disaster and my colleagues and I as first responders. I meet them at a turning point in their lives and help them to come to terms with a new identity, which may feel indelible; as one of my patients memorably put it, ‘You can be an ex-bus driver but not an ex-murderer.’

Serial homicide. Stalking. Arson. Gang crime. Who are the people behind these acts of terrible violence? What are their stories? And what is it like to sit opposite them?

Dr Gwen Adshead is one of Britain’s leading forensic psychiatrists, and she has spent thirty years providing therapy inside secure hospitals and prisons. Whatever her patient’s crime, she aims to help them to better know their minds by helping them to articulate their life experience.

Through a collaboration with co-author Eileen Horne, Adshead brings her work to life in these fascinating, unflinching portraits of individuals who newspaper headlines, TV dramas and crime fiction label ‘monsters’. Case by case, Adshead takes us into the treatment room and reveals these men and women in all their complexity and vulnerability. She sheds new light on the unpredictable nature of the therapeutic process as doctor and patient try to find words for the unspeakable. These are stories of cruelty and despair but also of change and recovery.

In a time of increasing polarisation, in the face of overcrowded prisons and devastating cuts to mental health care, Adshead speaks to our shared humanity and makes the case for compassion over condemnation, empathy over fear. The Devil You Know challenges what we think we know about evil. It is a rare book that has the power to change minds.

The Devil You Know will be published by Faber in June 2021.

Tickets: £5 / free for students by emailing - online event