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Contemplating mental illness through a lens of love

Sorrow and Bliss
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Book recommendations often over-promise and over-hype books to attract as many readers as possible, which is why I got a little apprehensive about Sorrow and Bliss, a book that was hailed as the “book of the summer”. اضافة اعلان

Do not hate me, but the hype Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owen received was a prime example of completely undeserved hysteria for a rather simplistic novel, hence my apprehension. To ease my concerns, Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason did offer some credible backup to all the praise as it made the Women’s Fiction Prize shortlist and in May won “Fiction Book of the Year” at the British Book Awards.

Meg Mason reads Sorrow and Bliss at Women’s Prize for Fiction ceremony. 
(Photo: Twitter)

Sorrow and Bliss is set in the aftermath of our protagonist Martha’s separation from Patrick. The narrative follows Martha as she tries to understand what happened and allows us to watch her as she delves into over 20 years of memories. But the memories are not just of this relationship; rather, we are given insight into the reality of life and the hardships of living with a mental illness.

And truth be told, Sorrow and Bliss deserves every ounce of love that comes its way.

The thorough dive into a woman’s psyche, which is deeply impacted by mental illness, offers a refreshing honesty and openness. It uniquely assesses how mental illness can plague a woman’s life and how that struggle can shape and impact relationships, especially those grounded in love.

Mason’s exposition about Martha’s illness is liberating. She cleverly never names and, towards the end, simply refers to the illness as “— —”. Martha has spent over half of her life incorrectly labeled with diagnoses, which is why Mason creating a space for Martha to begin understanding herself in a manner that is free from opinions and false googled information about certain conditions is powerful. For readers, this allows us to be on this journey of discovery with Martha and to feel deeply the pain and complexity the mental illness brings too.

The book shows just how it is to live in fear during moments of overwhelming depression.

And yet, Martha’s narration is full of sharp wit and candor. This is no bleak book; it is filled with humor that you cannot help but gobble up in just a few sittings. Mason’s ability to tell a heartfelt story so thoughtfully and yet with such wittiness makes this book so special. Not many authors can say that they tore your heart apart and, within the span of pages, mended it full love and a deeper, newfound appreciation for those around us, especially those living with mental illness. That alone shows Mason’s mastery over the complexity of writing a character such as Martha.

Characters that surround Martha are not ones you grow to adore. In all honestly, this is not a book where you fall in love with the characters; rather, you grow to love the sensitivity and space it gives you to explore these feelings within your own life. For me, that’s a pretty powerful and special tool. For an author not to rely on characters that we adore and grow attached to, but instead to create a space where you can imagine yourself in these scenes or these relationships is where true talent is.

The more you love a book, the harder it is to review, especially because it can often take time to grasp how a novel left its mark on you. But, I will be urging everyone around me, particularly all the women in my life, to read this novel and then thrust it into the hands of every woman they love too.

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