on 2 May 2004
I read this book before I saw the film, and now view each as seperate and different entities. Whereas the film uses a lot of artistic license to create a picture of hospitalisation in 1960's America, that is palatable for the cinema-goer, the original book is more a case history of Susanna Kayson's life.
It is an intregueing look into the mental health system at that time, but the parts that most touched me and affected me in the film, were absent from the original book.
I do however, find the book immensely interesting for it's 'original' material, in that Susanna's case notes are reproduced, apparantly word-for-word....and anyone who has had experience of the questioning undertaken by mental health staff, will find it an interesting read.
on 28 May 2007
If you watched the film and loved it then reading this book will make you love Susanna even more. The characters are captivating and so real on the pages that they leap out at you. You instantly want to learn more about them all and meet them. You find out more of what it was like and read about characters that were missed out of the film like Lisa Cody and Alice Calais.
A frank depiction of the worryingly bad mental health operations. The book is not in a linear order but goes through remembering times while she was in McLean Hospital and her reflections on why she ended up in there. As her love grows for her fellow patients you also feel it as you read.
A book that you just want to keep reading, until you fall in. You will defiantly realise your worth more when finished with this book that you think you are before you start. A mind is a great thing, or so they say.
on 7 January 2007
Girl, Interrupted is, in my opinion a memorable read. Told with honesty, humour and an eye for detail, Susanna Kaysen writes with a profound talent that allows her characters to leap from each page, as if given life before your very eyes. Unlike Carthage John Duffy's The Bronze Moon, and The Eden Express by Mark Vonnegut, Susanna's account of her admission to McLean's Psychiatric Hospital takes place mainly in the ward itself with only brief references to her life before her admission.
The inner workings of the ward are written of through the eyes of the author as an intelligent and observant young woman. Girl, Interrupted is an excellent read, and is brilliantly written by a clearly gifted writer, and I consider the memoir to be one of the few, truly inspiring books that I have had the good fortune to come across.
on 12 March 2010
Now I'm not sure if I spoilt this book by seeing the film first, I strongly suspect I did. Whilst I fully understand the films need to dramatise events to be commercially viable, this did however lead me to feeling distinctly disappointed with the book. I was expectant of an engrossing read, something more reflextive of the true nature of spending time in a mental hospital in the late 60's, however I felt this fell short.
The book was light and airy and as such easy to read, so easy it took me no longer than 4 hrs. The gritty nature of the film was absent and the empathy I felt with Suzanna was not quite as palable. The flow of the book left me feeling frustrated, the jump from one period in the future to one in the past and back again made it hard to establish any strong connection with the people discussed. Whilst am sure this flow was intentional, in a bid to reflect the nature of suzannas state of mind, as a reader I found the death of a patient in the early beginnings of the book only for the patient to be in scenerios discussed later took away from the poignant nature of the pains which lead to suicide.
However, the book held me (if only for 4 hours!)to it. It is an easy read for anyone wishing to get a better understanding of how it truely feels to suffer a mental illness, and Suzanna's humour through out the book is endearing. I recently read Prozac nation and found the book difficult to read and at times deeply depressing but also profound and honest, and refreshing for making little apologies for the self absorbing nature of mental illnes. Girl interrupted was the flip side of this, easy to read, often humourous in nature, but underwhelming, failing to convey how truely destroying mental illness can be.
I would still recommend a look at this if you've got a free afternoon, but if like me you saw the movie first dont expect to much.
on 25 June 2004
Of all the books I've ever read, this is the best. Kaysen's punctuation may not always be perfect and there may be a few idiosyncrasies or colloquialisms slipped in there but the book simple amazes me. It is like a drug which has a profound affect on your mind, you simply become addicted to the story and to the characters. Never before have I ended a book feeling so privileged to have read it and feeling so close to the author.
It was reading this book which got me wholly interested on its theme of mental illness and caused me to look the work of Sylvia Plath. Plath is one of the most renound authors of our time yet her autobiographical novel 'The Bell Jar' simply could not compare with Kaysen's (controversial, I know).
What I loved most about the book was the way it jumped about with time, each chapter was short and was only focusing on one aspect of the asylum or insanity, it really is not your average beginning, middle and end.
The film is also very compelling and Ryder and Jolie's performances as Susanna and Lisa are simply outstanding. They portrayed the characters exactly how I imagined them, yet the book is still so wonderful the film simply cannot capture the same raw honesty and emotion.
I only wish the book had been longer, I would much rather read Kaysen's blunt honesty and humor than a Dickens or Austen epic any day of the week
I read this in one sitting which is rare for me whatever the length of the book! This is not a long book though and it's written in a breezy casual style that's quick and easy to read. Susanna Kaysen provides us here with a memoir of her stay in a mental hospital in the 1960's. I was really engrossed. There are some very funny moments and some sad ones. It does get you thinking about the nature of mental illness and how perception of the world can be so varied. I'm sure we've all met people who seem a little odd in the way they seem to process things but we don't necessarily think they are 'crazy' - it seems there is a line somewhere, one the author admits she crossed. The book is very interesting and provides all kinds of insights!
I watched the film many years ago and I've only just read the book now - the book and film are equally as good in my opinion but if possible, do try to read the book first!
If you are interested in memoirs of mental illness, I also highly recommend 'An Unquiet Mind' by Kay Redfield Jamison and 'The Bell Jar' by Sylvia Plath both of which I read alongside Girl, Interrupted.
on 30 May 2003
a perceptive and utterly compelling account of a struggle with depression, border-line personality disorder and the complete horror that growing up usually entails. As the author, Kaysen gives an honest account of life in an institution. There is no pop-psychology, no suggesting of a desire to be the next Plath, just her own feelings.
This book brings about the thought 'honesty is the best policy' and indeed, from cover to cover, by the last page one can trully feel that there is something more in life that the nothing that all of us feel from time to time.
As someone who has experienced events at least on the fringe of what we meet here and at very much the same time, I found this book gripping and penetrating in the later thoughts and analyses. It is, I think, important to keep in mind that all the activity of the book is seen in retrospect through the eyes of someone who has "recovered". What most particularly made an impression on me was the unforced sense of authenticity so strongly communicated through Georgina, Lisa, Daisy as well as through the doctors and nurses. The absence of any sense of trying to dramatise what happened at the hospital makes it all the more chilling. What most especially comes across to me is how primitive - biochemical developments apart - most theory and treatment remains, trapped in the same jargon and stereotypical pictures of patients.
I have not seen the film, of which I have heard both enthusiastic and highly dismissive accounts.,but the book struck home powerfully.
on 16 May 2013
This book contains some very memorable descriptions of characters who the author vividly brings to life and is definitely a great insight into the mental health system of '60s USA and contains some deep and potentially unsettling musings on our concepts of what constitutes mental health.
However, I have reread this several times and come to the conclusion I would like it better if it did not feel so disjointed. It could be said that this reflects the subject matter and that to force Susanna's memoir into a more linear/conventional narrative would be a disservice. However, I feel that some parts when she describes her own specific thought processes were a little indulgent and unecessary and that the book would benefit from a little more structure without sacrificing any authenticity.
on 18 April 2003
I watched the film entitled Girl,Interrupted and was intrigued.The story was such an unnusual yet mystical one. The acting in it was absolutely superb, especially Anjelina Jolie's who, i must say, fully deserved her oscar for best supporting actress. Winona Ryder,also, did a delightful job at playing Susannah Kaysen herself.I went straight out and bought the film, and i watch it atleast once every three days, i find its a film you can watch over and over and still never get bored. I was surfing amazon one day and saw the book for sale, i was really exited as i love good books and knew straight away that this would be a good read. i couldnt have been more right. From the minute i picked it up my eyes were glued to the pages. The writer connects with the reader in a way which is so surreal, i felt as if i was being let in on a dark secret, a journey into the unknown took place before my very eyes. I was on that journey with her, Susannah, holding her hand along the way. Her eyes were my eyes, her thoughts and feelings she told me as i read. I was living her experiance ,meeting the people (charators) ,not only observing the situation but being involved in it.
Its not hard to read as its alll written in sections, like a diary which makes the reading even more ecxiting as you feel you shouldnt be reading it, but just cant stop yourself. The film gives a great portrayal of the book. I found the book to be deeper, more intense.How interesting it was to find out what really went on behind closed doors and peoples brains.Miss Kaysen gives an honest, truthful yet blunt review of what it was like living in a mental assylem in the 1960's.it was a pleasure to read and for a 15 yr old, was gripping reading! i was extremely upset when i finished the book. But as a said previously this book, and film is no one hit wonder.I can assure you, it will last forever. As all the great things do.