Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

(No Series)

In 1967, after a session with a psychiatrist she'd never seen before, eighteen-year-old Susanna Kaysen was put in a taxi and sent to McLean Hospital. She spent most of the next two years on the ward for teenage girls in a psychiatric hospital as renowned for its famous clientele -- Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, James Taylor, and Ray Charles -- as for its progressive methods of treating those who could afford its sanctuary.

This unusual book was so quick to read! Swift writing style, choppy chapters, large fonts, each chapter being a mini point, theme, or story. It skips around all over the place so nothing's a surprise as one chapter you learn something, and then the next it's back in time again. As an example, you learn about someone committing suicide, and the rest of the book has scenes with them in it. You also know from the beginning through the narrative how long she stays there institutionalized.

Nothing quite detailed in the book so you don't really get to know much about anyone either. Everything's quickly, fleetingly touched upon. When details were given in scenes and situations, it did grow more interesting, but the chapter would be over soon after. It's almost like pieces of thoughts to summarize a collective theme - her mental illness and look at the world, triggered at the end by a painting explanation that shows why the author used the title she did.

I can't say I felt one way or another about the main character. Her illness is interesting but you learn little about it from a medical point of view. Rather it's through her mind, which is preferable, but she speaks little about it also. You're left with impressions and I honestly didn't see much that stood out other than a scene or two where she lost it. The others she shared hospitalization with seemed more disturbed.

It's also set during the sixties, so women were treated differently then, as was mental illness diagnosed a bit more subjectively. This book is a memoir about the authors experiences in her late teens. Unique, artsy, intriguing, it is worth a read, but I can't rate it higher as it's so distant and withdrawn (which is perhaps some of the point because of the diagnosis.)

   Book Quotes:

“Crazy isn't being broken or swallowing a dark secret. It's you or me amplified. If you ever told a lie and enjoyed it. If you ever wished you could be a child forever.” 

“Scar tissue has no character. It's not like skin. It doesn't show age or illness or pallor or tan. It has no pores, no hair, no wrinkles. It's like a slip cover. It shields and disguises what's beneath. That's why we grow it; we have something to hide. ”  

“The only way to stay sane is to go a little crazy.”

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