Girl, Interrupted

Good morning Sunday Morning Review! I have missed writing my reviews lately, so today I am discussing one of my favorite books I read this summer!

This past year, I discovered the movie Girl, Interrupted only to become fascinated by the wild storyline. I started to do more research about the movie and was shocked to hear that the movie was based on a true book written by the main character herself, Susanna Kaysen. I had to immediately get my hands on her memoir, also titled Girl, Interrupted; so I marched down to my favorite place, Barnes & Noble, to find it. Surprisingly, I finished the book that day. So let’s get into it!

Although the plot is quite loose, it follows the central story of eighteen-year old Susanna Kaysen who is sent to a mental hospital— McLean Hospital— in the late sixties after an appointment with a psychiatrist she had never met. Her memoir follows her relationship with the other patients, staff, and her self discovery of mental illness and recovery. At the hospital, Susanna is diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder which was rarely seen/ diagnosed in women during the time. Susanna struggles to accept her diagnosis but throughout the story she develops an understanding of her illness and how she can create a fulfilling and balanced life while acknowledging and managing her disorder. 

I usually prefer fiction over nonfiction, but this memoir is definitely in my top 10 books list. Susanna’s storytelling is quite simple, which I actually love because it helps me get into the flow of reading and allows me to read a lot faster. Her writing reminds me a lot of Joan Didion’s— both writers get straight to the point while having talent for recalling and reciting immense, captivating detail. Even the physical layout of Girl, Interrupted reminded me of Didion’s The White Album. The books are sections into small chapters about one specific event and even the typewriter font (which I immediately noticed because I love fonts). Something that I can takeaway is that if you love Joan Didion you will like this book and probably other Kaysen books. 

I was interested in getting a real insight into what it is really like in a mental hospital, because let’s be honest we have all thought this at least once in our lives. Although I am sure (and hope) that mental hospitals have improved since the sixties, some of Susanna’s experiences are exactly how I would have imagined and some are very different from my expectations. For example, I expected to see some ugliness in the treatment of the patients. These girls were watched constantly— while bathing and even going to the bathroom. The hospital’s psychiatrist would often fall asleep during appointments or have inappropriate relations with the girls. McLean Hospital was not set up for success, but luckily I saw some nice moments during Susanna’s stay. My favorite part was analyzing the relationships between Susanna and the other patients. It made me happy that Susanna made close friendships with some girls and even though they would often get into (harmless) trouble, she found a way to have fun while enduring the biggest challenge of her life. At the end, Susanna exclaims that she even kept in contact with some of the girls after she was released. 

The only part I did not like was a small section at the end of the book where she discussed the science of the mind and mental illness. Maybe it is just a personal opinion that the science explanation did not interest me. I found it to abruptly slow the fast paced book once I got to the ending and it made a couple chapters tediously drag on. The book ended where Susanna was able to notice and accept her imperfections. I can’t exactly explain why, but when I ended the book I felt a little empty. I did not know why because Susanna got her happy ending, but I guess it was upsetting that many people similar to her don’t. Regardless, I felt proud of Susanna because she was able to pursue her passion in writing even while she severely struggled with BPD and depression. She is a good example of a person who strives towards her goals even if no one believes in her, which I believe made her into a strong minded person and I hope to become more confident in myself like Susanna is. 

☆☆☆☆

Georgia 

A Little Life

Warning: this post contains spoilers!!

TW: This post mentions depression, anxiety, and suicide. Please read carefully!! 🙂

So, welcome back to the blog! I know it’s been a while since we’ve posted, but I’ve been reading a lot lately (I’m two books ahead on my 2022 reading challenge !!) and I’m hopefully going to start posting more often. Okay, now here we go.

This is definitely the heaviest book I have ever read. It started bad, and it ended bad, and everything in between was bad. It was almost like, how much more suffering can these characters endure? Turns out, it was a lot.

The premise of the book follows four college friends through their twenties until their fifties. It generally revolves around Jude, who has a mysterious past and an issue with his nerves in his back that make him unable to walk properly. A lot of the book is set up around each of the friends–Willem, Malcolm, and JB–trying to help Jude and trying to understand him better.

Unfortunately for the reader, Jude’s life is one big ball of misery. The only times we see this man remotely happy are when he is *spoiler* adopted by his former law professor, Harold, and when he and Willem finally realize they are in love with each other. Even then, he is constantly depressed and self-loathing.

The part of the book that was the hardest to read was anything about Jude’s childhood. It felt as if she wrote anything and everything that could ever happen to a person, pulling out some of the worst situations I had ever read in my life. From birth to his almost inevitable suicide, Jude experienced more misery than humanly possible, and it often times made me feel sick to my stomach.

Despite it being the most depressing piece of literature I have ever read, this book was beautifully written. Right from the get-go, I was enrapt in the lives of these men, even the most mundane things. I fully cared about Jude, and felt genuinely ill when learning about his past and his hurt and his hardship. Everything felt so real and raw to me, and that was all because of the gorgeous writing of the author.

Now, while the author did write a beautiful book, I cannot write a raving review without addressing some things about her. I did some research on her, mostly because I was wondering who in their right mind could ever write something so horribly sad, and I found some interviews that sort of rubbed me the wrong way.

I won’t get into a lot of the things she has said, but I do want to say that while I enjoyed the book (though I will never put myself through that ever again), I do not agree with the things that the author has said about therapy and mental illness, and I firmly believe that everybody, no matter what their past or mental state is, is deserving of love and help and support. Nobody is beyond help, and nobody is better off dead.

I only recommend this book if you can mentally handle it. I do not recommend reading this book if you are prone to depression or anxiety or are sensitive to heavy subjects. I found myself entering a depressive slump if I read for too long, and had to pay more attention to my mental health than normal while reading.

Still, the book was very gorgeous, heartbreaking, and will stick with me for the rest of my life.

I will never read it again, though.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

-Bella

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Wow we have not written a blog post in a HOT minute!! But we are back and better than ever and I have a LOT of books to talk about!

I just finished reading Normal People, and my first impression of the book was that it was definitely not what I thought it was going to be. I thought this was going to be an easy-to-read, Taylor Jenkins Reid-esque book; a light romance with some shocking but eventually easy-to-digest twists. That is not what I got.

Rooney’s writing style is definitely easy-to-read, in the sense that I read it in less than two days. But the story itself was heavy, thoughtful, and just straight up depressing. As I read, I just became more and more lonely, as if I was living inside of the heads of Connell and Marianne, experiencing their melancholy versions of love, never truly understanding the meaning of happiness.

Despite its gradual downward spiral into a deep depression, it is a very good book. The subtleties of the way Marianne and Connell show their love to each other is so intriguing, and the paralleled between their relationship and their other relationships is so deep and important.

This is a book that makes you feel things, and most of them are not good things. Still, it is a work of art in the sense that it evokes a strong emotional response in the reader. These strong emotions make it so that when there is a good moment, or a line (i.e. “I’m not a religious person but I do sometimes think God made you for me”) it tugs on your heart even harder.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was definitely pretty heavy and mature, but it was a fast read and it really made me think.

-Bella

Daisy Jones & The Six

In honor of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Carrie Soto Is Back releasing soon, I thought it would be fitting to review Daisy Jones & The Six

Author’s note: I saw the cover reveal and read the first chapter of Carrie Soto Is Back in TJR’s newsletter a couple days ago and recommend you subscribe to her newsletter to see more of an inside look while you wait for her new book to release. Also, the book seems like it is going to be amazing, but let’s carry on with this book review! 

If you have read Daisy Jones & The Six, I hope you got my reference above!!

To begin, this was TJR’s second book in her period pieces— this book takes place in the 70s. I love her approach to writing because her books are always so different, but I love them all and I can always recognize her writing. In Daisy Jones & The Six, TJR writes in an interview style which is very experimental for her. I really enjoyed this technique because it was easy to follow and interesting to hear opinions and stories from the perspectives of every character. My fellow blog mate Bella has taken inspiration from this interview style of writing when creating her own story (which is phenomenal)! 

Here is a quick summary:

Daisy Jones is a wild girl who grows up in L.A. hoping to get noticed for her songwriting and singing skills. Meanwhile, the band The Six is also gaining popularity through their lead singer, Billy Doone. When Daisy and Billy meet and decide to create a song together, the entire world loves them and Daisy Jones & The Six work together to become legends. Of course, the story is not as simple as that, each band member learns that fame does not always bring happiness and sometimes morals are more important than glory. We witness the fall of the band as we see who chooses fame or family. 

I love how natural it is for TJR to create the summery, wild child, 70s rock band aesthetic throughout the book. I am even more excited to see how this aesthetic transitions to the TV adaptation that is hopefully coming by the end of 2022. 

Per usual, TJR’s books have plot twists by the end and this ending definitely did not disappoint. It usually takes me a couple weeks to read a book since I have other activities going on, but I read this book in 3 days which is a sign that this book is amazing and hard to put down. Please everyone and anyone, GO BUY THIS BOOK!! 

★★★★★

Georgia 🙂

Folklore/Evermore Songs as Little Women Characters

This Is Me Trying: Amy March

Amy March is seen as a simple, shallow, and annoying little girl, when in reality she is complex and important and interesting. People love to quickly call feminine girls annoying or weak, and they tend to overlook Amy’s dreams and aspirations. They praise Jo’s temper and complex emotions, but when Amy acts the same way, she is chastised. In reality, Amy is just trying.

I’ve been having a hard time adjusting/I had the shiniest wheels, now they’re rusting

Amy was once a very childish and immature girl, and all at once she must adjust to high society and the reality of her dreams. When she was young and naive, she thought she would be great—her wheels were shiny. Now, she realizes she cannot possibly be great, and she has to face that—she’s rusting.

I didn’t know if you’d care if I came back/I have a lot of regrets about that

Amy has a lot of fear about how Jo feels about her after she’s taken her place to go to Europe. She feels as maybe she has left for good, and that it might not matter to her family if she comes back, so she doesn’t. In the end, she misses Beth’s last days and comes back to a virtually empty house.

I just wanted you to know that this is me trying

She’s trying to be an adult and to make smart decisions, but she’s never known how and she doesn’t know how to be herself and still make others happy.

They told me all of my cages were mental/So I got wasted like all my potential

Amy’s dreams were always overlooked as childish or not important—at least not as important or successful as Jo’s. As a result, she resolved to waste her talents and her potential to be great because of the discouragement she always received—except from Laurie.

And my words shoot to kill when I’m mad/I have a lot of regrets about that

As Amy grows older she becomes less impulsive in her anger and more precise with it—like an assassin. She knows exactly what to say to hurt someone in such a calm way, even if she ends up regretting it later.

Fell behind all my classmates then I ended up here

Amy never fell behind academically, because Amy was always smart and had Jo’s help. But, she fell behind financially. She was never on the same level as them with trends or style, yet somehow she landed in a social position above any of them.

I just wanted you to know, that this is me trying/at least I’m trying

Amy is just trying to grow up and into her skin, and she feels as though others (Laurie, Jo) are not trying as hard as she is and that she’s suffering for them and they are not returning the effort.

And it’s hard to be at a party when I feel like an open wound/It’s hard to be anywhere these days when all I want is you

At the New Year’s party, Amy feels forgotten by Laurie, and it’s hard for her because she is so confused about what she wants for her future and she doesn’t want those feelings for Laurie, despite them being strong. She finds it hard to live the life she expects when she just wants to be with him.

You’re a flashback and a film reel on the one screen in my town

Laurie is a reminder of Amy’s past, and him arriving randomly in Europe is a giant surprise to her. He is the one thing from her childhood that has come back, and he is the one thing in her childhood that she is willing to fight to keep.

At least I’m trying…

-Bella

Folklore/Evermore Songs as Little Women Characters

My Tears Ricochet—Laurie (and Jo)

I know it seems like all of these are about Jo and Laurie—I promise the next one is not, it’s just how the first few songs on the albums fit the characters.

This song connects to the part of the story after Beth dies, when Jo is home alone with her mother. Meg is with John, Amy is in Paris, and Laurie has run away to Europe. I kind of think about it in the point of view of Laurie, because of what he comes home to. Jo is so far in her grief that she resolves to settle for marriage with Laurie, while Laurie has moved on from the hurt that she has caused him—hence the sadistic line, ”my tears ricochet”.

“We get back here, we line up, weeping in a sunlit room”

For a while, everyone had been away from the March house. Laurie and Amy in Europe, Jo in New York, Meg with her family. But, after Beth’s death, they all come back to the house for the funeral—“weeping in a sunlit room”.

“If I’m on fire, you’ll be made of ashes too”

I interpret this line to be describing the fact that two people are so close that they are almost connected emotionally, like if one is upset, the other is too. This is how close Laurie and Jo were, before they both left. They’re still very close now, but there’s a small rift between them. They are also both very all-or-nothing people—if one burns the other one burns too.

“Even on my worst day, did I deserve, babe, all the hell you gave me?”

Jo broke Laurie’s heart, plain and simple. He was definitely angry about it when he went to Europe, as well as just hurt. He was definitely running away when he left, and that’s why he seemed like such a mess.

“Cause I loved you, I swear I loved you, ‘till my dying day”

When Laurie proposed to Jo, he swore she was the only person he’d ever loved. In that moment, he was very all-or-nothing, naive, and immature. He was young and truly believed he would love only her forever. Of course, he does still love her when they reunite, but he acknowledges it’s a different love.

“I didn’t have it in myself to go with grace”

Laurie left and made a mess. He went to Europe and acted a fool. Even Amy pointed out that he needed to mature and stop moping, and when Amy tells you to stop moping you know you’ve done something wrong.

“And if I’m dead to you why are you at the wake?”

This line fits in with the theme of death and funerals, since when Laurie and Amy come home it is for Beth’s funeral. But, it is also when Jo is grieving, which makes her dig up feelings for Laurie in order to cope. Laurie doesn’t know this of course, but if he did he would be appalled.

“Cursing my name, wishing I’d stayed, look at how my tears ricochet”

At first, both Jo and Laurie thought they’d lost each other. Laurie figured Jo hated him—that’s why she left. For those fleeting days, she’s ready to take him back. He would never agree to it, not after Paris.

We gather stones, never knowing what they’ll mean, some to throw, some to make a diamond ring.”

This line shows how the two characters have grown apart from each other, and how Laurie found love with another.

“You know I didn’t want to have to haunt you, but what a ghostly scene.”

Neither of them wanted what happened between them to end the way it did. But, because both of them left the way they did, there was never any closure. Now, they haunt each others’ memories, and they long for the friendship they once had.

“You wear the same jewels that I gave you as you bury me.”

Here we see the ring again. For some reason, Laurie still wears the ring that Jo gave him, despite her breaking his heart and leaving him in the dust. He seems to have set her behind him (“buried” her), yet he still wears that ring.

“And I can go anywhere I want, anywhere I want, just not home.”

Both Jo and Laurie ran away. Jo felt as if she was losing everyone—Meg to marriage, Laurie to love—and she left home because she felt it was her only option. Laurie went to Europe and went everywhere but back home to see the March family. As we see when he reunites with Amy, none of them had seen much, if any, of him since Jo broke his heart.

“And you can aim for my heart, go for blood, but you would still miss me in your bones.”

No matter how badly Jo hurt Laurie, she always missed him and wanted him back. In the end, she even tried to save that relationship, willing to settle for a marriage she didn’t want because she didn’t want to lose everyone from her childhood.

And I still talk to you, when I’m screaming at the sky. And when you can’t sleep at night, you hear my stolen lullaby.”

Laurie and Jo will always love each other, but they were not meant to end up together. Their love is deep but it’s immature and romantically one-sided. It hurt both of them to leave, and they will always remember that hurt.

“I didn’t have it in myself to go with grace, and so the battleships will sink beneath the waves.”

Back in strictly Laurie’s POV, we are referencing his running away to Europe again. He left the fight, or whatever we want to call it, up in the air, and now all of the hurt and damage is buried instead of dealt with.

“You had to kill me but it killed you just the same. Cursing my name, wishing I stayed, you turned into your worst fears.”

Jo broke Laurie’s heart, making it clear she never wanted to get married, and would never love him that way. Now, she’s regretting it. She wishes he stayed and she claims that she will marry him, because she’s lonely and she craves being loved. She’s become the very thing she swore she would never be.

“Drunk on this pain, crossing out the good years.”

Jo is grieving, and everyone sees it. Her pain is so bad that she’s making claims she never would have before, making rash decisions about love, and trying to grasp the tiny fragments of her past that she has left. By doing this, she’s simultaneously destroying the person she was during her ”good years”.

“Cursing my name, wishing I’d stay, look at how my tears ricochet”

-Bella

1984

I’m sorry, but Orwell’s 1984 is arguably the worst book I’ve ever read in my entire life. The writing is bad, the plot is bad, and the characters are flat and predictable. I cannot understand why English teachers are obsessed with this book, and I cannot understand what exactly I was supposed to learn from reading it.

The setup of a dystopian society could be a good thing, and it’s been successfully done many times (The Hunger Games, Handmaid’s Tale), but this was not one of those times. The world felt unfinished and almost lazy when reading, as if Orwell was making it up as he wrote and not really paying attention to consistency.

I really cannot recommend this book to anyone. Not only is it objectively bad, it borderlines on misogynistic at many points and writes women as stupid objects in a supposedly “future” society.

If you want to read a really good dystopian novel from the same time frame, I recommend The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. It does everything 1984 tried to do world building-wise; but did everything right. (Don’t worry—there is a review on that book coming soon).

All in all, I absolutely despised this book and would recommend that you keep at least 10 feet away at all times.

-Bella

The Secret History

After about a month, I have finally finished The Secret History by Donna Tartt. Usually, a book like this would not take so long to read, but the slow beginning mixed with the end of the school year made it hard for me to get into the book at first. Warning: there are spoilers ahead (don’t read this one yet Zoe ;)).

The book follows college student Richard Papen. He travels from California to attend Hampden College in Vermont. He joins the notoriously exclusive Greek class, taught by a man named Julian, and attended by only five other students; Henry, twins named Camilla and Charles, Francis (affectionately called “François” by some of the classmates), and Bunny.

Now, it’s no spoiler or surprise that Bunny is murdered—shoved off of a cliff in the middle of a snowstorm—by his classmates. That is announced on the first page of the book. It’s the events leading up to that murder, and the events after, that really make up the story. Yet, the reader is left feeling odd and unsatisfied after reading, and that is due to the fact that Richard is an incredibly unreliable narrator.

Richard is arguably a worse narrator than Nick Carroway in The Great Gatsby. He has little to no idea what’s going on for most of the book, and he knows very little about the people he calls his friends. He also is depressed, drunk, or high the entire book, so some of his accounts of the past events are foggy.

This is not to say that Donna Tartt is not a brilliant writer. The storyline and the way the story is written is genius and the ack of information and detail adds to the book.

Actually, the lack of information about each character is exactly what makes the book so endearing. At first, the reader idolizes the characters (like Richard)—they’re cool, smart, mysterious, and well-dressed. As the story goes on, we learn things about the characters. They’re all dark, twisted people—oblivious to the fact that they’re all dark and twisted. Even Richard is a horrible person (specifically seen on page 484), yet he never admits to his faults.

The entire book itself is satirical commentary on wealthy, upper class students. Donna infiltrates these peoples’ groups and shows their true colors. There’s the fact that though they all seem to be extremely wealthy, almost none of them actually have any money. Either they have an allowance from their parents, or they are genuinely just faking it. They also are incredibly sociopathic, depressed, and/or just insanely weird. Like, for example, sleeping with your twin (spoiler alert!).

Overall, I think that this book has become one of my favorites of all time. Sure, it was slow at first, but the detail, the storyline, the characters, and just the entire overall aesthetic is amazing. I recommend this book to everyone, no matter what you usually prefer to read. It’s definitely a modern classic.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

-Bella

All The Young Dudes

Honestly, I’m not sure where to start with this book.

I guess, I want to start off by saying that this book is fanfiction—it is a fan’s telling of the Marauders’ time in Hogwarts and beyond, based off of the characters by JK Rowling. But, it didn’t feel like a fanfiction. It felt like you were truly in the world of Harry Potter, like the characters and the events were real.

The writing of this book was so well-crafted and natural. The characters were all so three-dimensional—it was like they were real people. They were so easy to relate to, despite being magical. It was so easy to find parts of myself in all of them, which is a telling sign of an amazing book.

This book made me cry. A lot. A lot more than any other book I’ve read. When I finished, it felt like I had gotten so attached to the characters I’d forgotten they were fiction. The world that was built inside those digital pages was just so real to me, it was like I genuinely lost people I cared about. That sounds cheesy, I know.

It’s easy to get attached to this book. It’s 188 chapters, and none of them are short. They’re long and full of detail and each one sucks you in farther than the last. It feels like you’re not even reading a book, but rather, being sucked into a world full of magic and werewolves and danger and love. It is truly an adventure.

Of course, you’d probably have to be a Harry Potter fan to read this book. You could honestly read it without having read or watched Harry Potter, but I’m not sure it would have the same emotional connection. But, if you love Harry Potter, I highly recommend this book. Even if you’re not normally a big reader. This book is worth it.

Here’s the link if anyone is interested in reading: https://archiveofourown.org/works/10057010?view_full_work=true

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

I don’t always like assigned reading. The idea of being forced to read a book tends to take the fun out of the whole experience for me. Every once in a while, though, I’m lucky to be assigned a book that I wouldn’t normally pick out and end up really enjoying. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi is one of those books.

Persepolis is an autobiographic comic book about Satrapi’s coming-of-age in Iran in the 80s. For historical context, Iran was dealing with the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution and entering a war with Iraq. Two things that I didn’t expect to like about this book – the comic book format and history lessons. I don’t read comic books, and history has never been my favorite subject (but anything’s better than math). However, I found that the format of the story helped it move along faster; I finished the book in a couple hours. I would actually recommend taking your time to appreciate the drawings, though, if you’re not in a rush to finish a school assignment. As far as the historical aspect: did I fully understand what was happening in Iran at all times? No, but I wasn’t as confused as I expected to be.

This is one of those books where you realize that people around the world are really all the same. Satrapi is like most children – inquisitive, mischievous, adventurous. Even in the circumstances she grows up with, she spends a lot of time thinking and talking about childish things. One example is when she constantly compares her relatives to her classmates’ relatives, based on how heroic they are. Finally, she meets a family member who was a war prisoner longer than her friend’s dad – a true hero in the family! I really enjoyed Satrapi’s unique (and often funny) perspective as a young girl experiencing a shift in Iranian society.

I’ll be reading the sequel Persepolis II: The Story of a Return soon, so I’ll update with my thoughts on that!

Note: If this sounds like something you might like, I would also recommend the Maus books by Art Spiegelman. They’re comic books about the author’s father and his experiences during the Holocaust. Another school assignment that I liked!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

-Zoe