Newest Review: ... years ago!). It is basically a memoir by Susanna Kaysen, who at 18 years old (in 1967) was sent off to a psychiatric hospital on the rec... more
A girl interrupted in adolescence...
Girl, Interrupted - Susanna Kaysen
Member Name: kirsty_tinx
Girl, Interrupted - Susanna Kaysen
Date: 22/02/09, updated on 22/02/09 (232 review reads)
Advantages: Thought provoking, well written
Disadvantages: Short, not everything is explained
Having watched the film a couple of years ago, I finally got around to reading the book recently. Written by Susanna Kaysen herself, it follows her life in a psychiatric hospital, with accounts of her stay there, and the other people which she encountered.
It is interrupted itself, with medical notes and hospital records, as well as her own writing about her time there.
At a mere 169 pages, it is a fast read, but that doesn't make it easy. To be honest, I was anticipating something different having watched the film before reading. Each time an event happened in the book, I compared it to the film which, as good as I think it is, I can now say from reading the book, some things were obviously changed for dramatic effect and I think as this is a memoir, changes for the film were wrong.
Anyway, back to the book!
As we follow Susanna throughout her journey in McLean Hospital, where she is treated for depression (although it is later discovered she is treated for something else) she analyses herself and the world around her, looking back at what happened, and how things could be percieved.
The memoir does not appear to be chronological. We are introduced to Georgina, her roommate, before we discover anything about Susanna herself, and her diagnosis.
Susanna thinks that after a 20 minute talk with a psychiatrist and being promised a 'rest' she has been sent to McLean for 18 months. Throughout the book she looks back at this. She thinks of the time in which she was with him, and what brought her to the hospital. It is clear that she does not feel she needs to at McLean, and as you hear more about her fellow patients, you may partially agree. It is clear she is less ill than others around her, but still, something appears to be wrong.
However, throughout the book you can find yourself arguing, along with Kaysen herself, that maybe she doesn't belong there. Maybe her thoughts and feelings are those of a typical teenager, just not given the chance to grow out of them. Fair enough, she took her feelings too far, and there are times in the book where you will start to think maybe she is slightly mad, but could this be the environment she has been put in, along with others with mental issues? It's a question which stays in your mind throughout reading the book, whether or not she belongs there.
Throughout the book we are introduced to other characters and people that Susanna meets through the institution. We learn about them, their illnesses and how they cope with life inside the hospital. Lisa seems to have a large impact on everyone in the hospital. You could say that Lisa is how people would typically expect psychiatric patients to be - a little too loud, overbearing and impulsive. The whole institution is portrayed in the book as very routine, as they have checks and certain policies which Susanna appears to disagree with, as do the others in the hospital.
At many points during the book, Susanna seems to ponder mental illness and how it works. She analyses her mental illness, and thinks of how it works and is diagnosed. As she looks at the 'description' of the illness of which she was diagnosed, she considers how much of this really applies to her, and what it is that got her into the hospital.
This memoir is an interesting read. I find the psychology of things interesting anyway, and mental illness particularly interesting. Even so, it is a short read which will open your eyes to the ways of mental illness in this honest and thought provoking read, and leave you questioning how useful our ways of diagnosis for mental illness actually is. I think it would have been interesting to hear more about her fellow patients diagnosis also, however it is possible that Susanna was not able to go into this. However, it is an interesting look at her experiences of mental illness and a psychiatric hospital.
Summary: Worth reading as a short look at mental illness
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