“There is thought, and then there is thinking about thoughts, and they don’t feel the same.”
Rate: 4 ⭐⭐⭐⭐
In 1967, after a session with a psychiatrist she’d never seen before, eighteen-year-old Susanna Kaysen was put in a taxi and sent to McLean Hospital. She spent most of the next two years on the ward for teenage girls in a psychiatric hospital as renowned for its famous clientele–Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, James Taylor, and Ray Charles–as for its progressive methods of treating those who could afford its sanctuary.
Kaysen’s memoir encompasses horror and razor-edged perception while providing vivid portraits of her fellow patients and their keepers. It is a brilliant evocation of a “parallel universe” set within the kaleidoscopically shifting landscape of the late sixties. Girl, Interrupted is a clear-sighted, unflinching document that gives lasting and specific dimension to our definitions of sane and insane, mental illness and recovery.
Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen is a memoir that reads like fiction. One that had me engaged from the first sentence where Kaysen starts by talking about a parallel universe. Susanna Kaysen talks about her 2 year stay at a mental institution, giving the reader a clear picture of what life in there was like and relating it to the life out in the ‘real’ world.
I loved how openly she shares the nature of her illness, going ahead to give telling descriptions, as well as personal stories. Kaysen is very open in the book and even goes ahead to share with the reader medical records of her stay at the institution.
Her time in the facility is well told along side her friends, fellow patients, who share in her experience at the institution and give the reader a different perspective. It’s clear from the word go that they play an important role in Kaysen’s life. Lisa Rowe was by far the most entertaining, a favourite.
“When you’re sad you need to hear your sorrow structured into sound.”
Depending on how you look at it, Girl, Interrupted is a morbid book. There’s attempted suicide, substance abuse and self harm among other ordeals. How the hospital staff and patients relate is something that is highlighted a lot and I came to the conclusion these ladies deserved better.
Kaysen gives insights to how people treat mental illness and the mentally ill in the 1960’s and it is quite eye opening. If you love autobiographies then this is the book for you, I highly recommend.
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