Girl, Interrupted

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Vintage Books, 1993 - Biography & Autobiography - 168 pages
3424 Reviews
In 1967, after a session with a doctor she'd never seen before, eighteen-year-old Susanna Kaysen was put in a taxi to McLean Hospital. She spent most of the next two years on the ward for teenage girls in a psychiatric hospital that was as renowned for its famous clientele - Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, James Taylor, and Ray Charles were among its patients - as for its progressive methods of treating those who could afford its rare sanctuary. In a series of spare, razor-sharp vignettes marked by startling black humor, "Kaysen writes as lucidly about the dark jumble inside her head as she does about the hospital routines, the staff, the patients." (Kirkus Reviews) Through her own experiences (augmented by pages from her medical record) and those of her fellow patients, Kaysen opens up the world of the hospital and questions the social and emotional assumptions that divide people into deviant or normal. More than a story of young women and madness, Girl, Interrupted is a brilliant evocation of a "parallel universe" set within the kaleidoscopically shifting landscape of the late sixties. It is a clear-sighted, unflinching historical document that gives lasting and specific dimension to our definitions of mental illness and recovery.

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The book is an autobiography of an 18-year old girl traveling in a world of a mental disorder, and yet maintaining a brilliant ability to know when her perceptions are not true according to a sane mind. A movie by the same title was made with Winona Rider (Susanna) and Angelina Jolee (Lisa) that was riveting. "...Girl, Interrupted captures an exquisite range of self-awareness between madness and insight". THE BOSTON GLOBE.
The story is told in the first person, and takes the reader into the world of McLean Hospital, a psychiatric hospital. This is the very personal and eye-opening narrative which gives us real people suffering from real mental disorders, some of which are very extreme. The reader becomes familiar with some of the teens assigned to Susanna's ward: Lisa, the sociopath who keeps escaping from McLean and has to be hunted down. Often she returns on her own, for there is no other place for her that could be called "home". Cynthia, the extremely depressed, Polly and Georgina, both schizophrenic, the Martian girl who had severely burned herself and was extremely disfigured, Daisy, and others with various mental disorders become familiar as Susanna describes their lives on the ward. Susanna herself has been diagnosed with "possible" Borderline Personality Disorder. Some of the "inmates" were rehabilitated and released. Others, like Lisa, would be hospitalized for life. It's a story of irony, hope, sadness, and truth. Few people ever get to experience vicarious mental illness. This is a new trip for them, and it's a great story, written with a dry but sensitive tone, by the rehabilitated author. I highly recommend it.

Review: Girl, Interrupted

User Review  - Amber - Goodreads

This is one of the few times you'll hear me say that the movie was much better than the book. While I did enjoy some parts of Kaysen's memoir, for the most part I thought it lacked any emotion or ... Read full review


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About the author (1993)

Susanna Kaysen is also the author of the novels Asa, As I Knew Him and Far Afield. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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