Samantha's Reviews > Girl, Interrupted

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
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Jan 28, 08

Read in August, 2007

** spoiler alert ** I first heard about this via the Winona Ryder film of the same name (which I have yet to see) and when Angelina Jolie (unknown to me, at least, at that time) won an Oscar for her part. Picked the book as a Summer Reading Program (SRP) possibility because of this previous awareness, plus someone (Beth, Jennikins?) suggested it. Borrowed Beth's copy, in any case, and here's what I thought.

To those of you unfamiliar with the book (I can't very well speak for the movie or the (un)similarities because I haven't seen it yet), this is the autobiographical tale of a young woman institutionalized in 1967, her official diagnosis: Borderline Personality Disorder.

Kaysen spends the next two years of her life in the McLean Hospital with fellow female 'psychos', each of which seem crazier than herself. The author's main focus throughout the memoir is Am I really crazy?, and it is difficult to really determine, not only for the author, but for her peers, her doctors, the nurses, and the reader as well.

With the vignettes she encloses, Kaysen details the inner workings of mental health in 1967-68, which is a sharp parallel of the 'inside world vs. the outside world' -- a drastically, violently changing world -- and how she could possibly fit in it. That is, if she and her fellow inmates ever fit in it. Parts of the book were rather profound and, I am hesitant to admit, made perfect sense to me personally. For a supposedly crazy person, Kaysen has a firm grip on how things really are as well as perceived. In fact there are few instances throughout the book that sway me to believe she might have been off kilter. The impression on the whole is of a misunderstood girl being shunted out of the way rather than being accepted, forcing her to doubt herself more so than those that disposed of her.

Kaysen's style is demonstrative of interruptions. Not that her thoughts are incomplete; rather it seems she barely had time to jot down her coherent thoughts in between the 10 minute 'checks' by the nurses. The other patients seemed to belong in the hospital more so than the author, but perhaps that was intentional. The only character of true interest is Lisa: a sociopath, violent and manic young woman who repeatedly attempted escape, if only to entertain herself and the others. She reminded me a great deal of a girl I knew in Junior High who was just as wild and crazy.

I really enjoyed the book for all these reasons and simply because I could relate and understand so much. Then the book changed course, deus ex machina you could say, and Kaysen the character lost my sympathy. In a word, she recovered. I wish the ending had been less anticlimactic because then I might have liked it better. As it is, I would recommend it, if only for the first 130 pages.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Julie (last edited Sep 06, 2008 08:33PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Julie I guess I just couldn't see another ending for her, since she certainly didn't seem to need the hospital like the other girls. So the obvious "solution" would be for her to be deemed "recovered" by her doctors, even if she hadn't really changed.
Her case of mental disorder was so mild, that it's not like a great metamorphosis had to happen for her to be released.
I felt like part of the main point of the story was that she might not have needed to be in there in the first place. And maybe she had to act her way out of it to an extent.
Borderline was a perfect term for her disorder, since it almost didn't seem like a disorder at all.

message 2: by Grace (new) - added it

Grace I agree with the above commenter. I don't know if you have seen the movie by now or not but I just want to warn you that it is nothing like the book. They changed so much stuff it isn't even funny. I think that both the book and the movie are good on their own merits but the only thing they have in common is the title. I'll give you one for instance but I won't spoil anything for you. Lisa's character is totally changed from the book. In the movie she's cruel and abusive.

Effy I'm not going to down Susanna Kaysen's need to be in a hospital for her condition but a year and a half deemed to be too much time. Her borderline personality was that but the hospital mostly kept her then needed. Elizabeth Wurtzel belonged there more then she. Reading how she spent her time there, it seems like she was just hanging out.

Amanda Love the movie, hated the book. I watched the movie first (I didn't know it was based on a book) and wanted to read the book as soon as I found out there was one. I could barely read it and I have NO idea how they could say the movie was based on the book. Maybe inspired...

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