Monday 7 September 2015

Girl, Interrupted: Susanna Kaysen

A memoir penned by Susanna Kaysen documenting the year and a half she spent on a psychiatric ward. Overdosing on painkillers and having her stomach pumped, along with promiscuity, detachment and a number of other symptoms led to Susanna voluntarily signing herself onto a ward. This tale tells of her experience inside a ward where she meets a number of young women who are struggling with their mental health. 

I decided to read this after watching the film adaptation starring Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie. I absolutely loved the film and particularly enjoyed the way in which the actresses portrayed the characters. I was therefore keen to go back to the beginning and read the book the film was adapted from. 

Something that I enjoyed that wasn't really covered in the film was the meaning behind the title. I always thought that the title was quite powerful. I appreciated the impact it has and the many different conclusions that can be made from it, but it is even more so now that I know the reasons behind why she chose it. Of course, you will have to read the book to find this out, but it was an aspect of the book that really caught my attention. 

The book is not told in a straightforward timeline. The chapters instead focus on events that often overlap. For example, there was one character who was said to have died in an early chapter but then reappeared in a later chapter. To start with this confused me but I soon learnt to not deal with the book in such a linear fashion and allow for the time scale to jump around. In fact, whilst this annoyed me to start with, I soon appreciated it as a reflection of the authors mental status at the time in which the book is set. It is probably the most striking insight into how she felt and is as important as the written words.

Sometimes in the film I felt that they beautified Susanna mental illness. In fact the character portrayed by Winona Ryder seemed to be remarkably sane, particularly in comparison to the other characters. The book gave a better insight into the darker elements of her illness, particularly the detachment. Now, having read the book, I can see that on occasion, the film characters were somewhat lacking. I did however enjoy both the book and the film very much and wouldn't hesitate to recommend both. 

Of course, the book is about mental health so I recommend it with the warning that if you have worries about your own mental health that may be triggered, then maybe think twice before reading it. 

Let me know in the comments what you thought to it or if there are any similar books you can recommend to me!