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4.3 out of 5 stars34
4.3 out of 5 stars
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 January 2013
The front of my paperback edition carries the following strapline from a NYT book review :

'Resembles Tristram Shandy as rewritten by Sylvia Plath'

That is it, in a nutshell. Both TS and Plath's The Bell Jar (50th Anniversary Edition) are, above all, wonderful and creative pieces of writerly craft. As is this. Janice Galloway combines the plangent, melancholy, mordantly funny, sharp-eyed anarchic WEIRDNESS of Tristram Shandy with the excruciatingly painful, honest, revelatory expose of a mind (very like yours and mine) cracking and giving way under the pressures of holding it together in a world which seems set-up precisely to force shattering in the first place - like The Bell Jar

A beautifully constructed book, which like Tristram Shandy uses the visual aspect of what a printed book looks like to express something of what the book is about - without giving too much away here, as i don't want to spoil the reader in their surprised response. This book, in non-linear fashion is the story of one woman and how she holds (and does not hold) together. Galloway, as I realise from having previously read two volumes of her later published autobiography This is Not About Me and All Made Up, has distilled some of her own life into this imaginative fiction.

The prizes and awards this first novel garnered are deserved and unsurprising. And, most searingly, the MIND/Allan Lane award. Aspects of mental health care are scorchingly shown.

Be warned, this book will have you laughing at the black humour of our protagonist at the very moment that the fierceness of her pain feels like a knife in the gut
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on 19 July 2015
I am in awe of Janice Galloway. It's not really possible to adequately describe this book-you need to read it yourself.
The subject could so easily have become a dreary and depressing but her brilliant writing lifts it to a different level.
She really is one of the great current writers.
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on 2 January 2014
Love this book interesting typography, and interesting personal story. Fab and easy read. Short but intriguing story times. Wonderful work.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 17 December 2014
Already in place are a number of reviews which describe the virtues of this book admirably. I’ve no wish to repeat, recapitulate or extemporise on those. It’s not easy to find fresh things to say, but as one who has experienced depression, albeit not reactive, which Joy’s is in part – and it’s important to note the family history as well as Michael’s death – I’ll try to comment a little on the novel, rather than on the experience behind it. I know that in the last analysis the two are not strictly separable.

The fragmented narrative clearly suits the subject matter ideally, and is handled with considerable skill. This is a one person novel. The supporting cast are little more than cyphers, no doubt appropriately in that they exist in a mind that is subject to a kaleidoscope of moods, partly drug-induced. We don’t really see any discrepancy between Joy’s perception of them and what might have been the actuality. Hence we can’t really know whether the portraits of the medical profession are angry and cynical, as I’m inclined to wish to be the case, or whether they are distorted into near-fools by being filtered to us through the distorted lens of someone whose mind is unstable.

A number of readers note an association with Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar”. Plath’s novel strikes me as a much darker work, presenting a mind much further removed from a firm grip on reality. One is tempted to make a sharp distinction between the presentation of incipient psychosis and neurosis. Although Joy Stone may approach close to suicide, she seems to me to have one foot at least firmly embedded in reality. Indeed, it is possible to see her as sane in a crazy world, not least in its treatment of mental health.

Curiously, this is not a depressing novel, but then neither is it a glib celebration of persistence and courage as some seem to see it. I think it has more integrity than that. Something I can’t quite identify prevents it for me being something exceptional, but it’s certainly a good book and worth the price for the oft repeated psychiatrist joke alone. Certainly it should be required reading for all the misguided cognitive behavioural therapists and fellow travellers.
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on 26 February 2008
I read this book for school but I absolutely loved it. It is amazing how it conveys real feelings yet it is not overly moving/disturbing. I came away from this book with a greater understanding of myself and society as a whole. It's a must-read for young women.
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on 28 June 2013
some nice analogies and metaphors to keep the mind busy. i stunning insight into the sparcity of care for mentally ill patients.
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on 6 June 2015
A great book which gives a very clear insight in mental health illness
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on 1 June 2015
A voice that leaves you hanging on every sentence.
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on 13 June 2013
This book was recommended by BBC's "Open Book". I'd never heard of Janice Galloway before and I'm glad I've found her writings. I work with stories and expressive writing in mental health and Social Care, so I was intrigued by the idea of writing sboit mental ill health. The author writes with searing honesty, extraordinary powers of observation and manages to describe uncomfortable and chaotic states of mind in a way that utterly engages. A fascinating, sometimes grimly painful, yet compassionate book. I bought her two biographies as well, also couldn't put them down.
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on 4 March 2009
well written initiating deep emotions and heart felt agonies for the reader. A thought provoking novel.
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