Snakes & Ladies

THE SNAKE PIT (278 pp.)—Mary Jane Ward—Random House [$2.50].

For the inmates at Juniper Hill Mental Hospital, neither small courtesies nor a sense of time existed.

"Cut the shoving, ladies!" the sweet-faced nurse twittered as the patients rushed to the dinner table. "Get away from my chair," said one of the ladies. "No talking, ladies," screamed Nurse Hart, who looked "like a wildebeest." Virginia was disappointed in her dinner because she only managed to get two bites of bread. The rest was snatched by the other ladies.

Titian-haired Virginia Cunningham, whose trouble is schizophrenia, is...

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