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The Trick is to Keep Breathing

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  1,866 ratings  ·  155 reviews
'An account from the inside of a mind cracking up. . . its writing is as taut as a bowstring. From brilliant title to closing injunction, it hums with intelligence, clarity, wit; and, its heroine's struggle for order and meaning seduces our minds, exposes how close we all of us are to insanity. Joy, as Galloway's heroine reluctantly lets us know that she's called, is simpl ...more
Paperback, 236 pages
Published March 7th 1991 by Vintage (first published October 1st 1989)
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The Trick Is To Keep Reading!

Sometimes it strikes me as utterly bizarre. Reading. Those tiny black signs on white paper that I continue to stare at for hours each day. What a strange thing to do. And what incredibly diverse emotions those tiny black signs evoke in me. What complete contrasts they generate, depending on which tiny black signs I choose to read at the same time. In this case, I read Galloway straight after Clarice Lispector's Near to the Wild Heart, and the effect is ... strong!

K.D. Absolutely
Jan 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read (2006-2010)
Confession: I can't stand looking at a crying woman.

I don’t want seeing any woman hurt. I’ve been surrounded by women in my life who at some point in their lives cried: my maternal grandmother, my mother, my sister, my wife, my daughter and even some of my officemates, my friends or even total strangers.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate them because they cry. I don’t want seeing people extremely sad that they have to shed tears. I don’t believe in happy tears. I think those tears come down becaus
Oct 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Kalliope by: Liberty Chaussettes

The Trick is to Keep Reading.

That is what I had to keep telling myself every 25 pages or so. I would have to break away and move to another book for a bit, before I could breathe in and come back, always willingly, to this Keep Breathing of a novel.

There is not too much of a plot in this book. It is the account of a young woman in shock after her lover drowned in a camping resort during holidays abroad. Instead of action what Janice Galloway offers us, brilliantly, is the inner pulsing of a depr

Depression, like Karen described Heroin addicts in her review for the sadly out-of-print novel Like Being Killed, is boring, self-absorbed and narcissistic. Depressed people are generally no fun for anyone. For happy people I imagine them to be unfathomable springs of annoyance. Why can’t they just get on with their life, I believe they would say (maybe they say other things, happy people can feel free to enlighten me here). For other folks of melancholy dispositions, dealing with other depresse
MJ Nicholls
Brief Interviews With Hideous Readers

B.I. #12

I want something light and airy. Reading is hard. After a tough day’s work, I don’t want to do any thinking. My occupation is so important, and I have to concentrate so hard, and exert myself so strenuously, that I simply cannot focus on a page of prose for more than ten minutes without collapsing in a twitching spasming heap on the floor when I get home, so I need extremely easy, unchallenging narratives that introduce me to some topic I can
Not sure if it's just me or the effect of reading but I'm feeling distinctly light-headed.
The trick is not to think. Just act dammit.

Empty. A faint buzzing in the ears and the distant sound of march music. Sparrows squabbling over the fat balls and the craah of a jackdaw.
I have lost the ease of being inside my own skin.

Food. Food helps, and plenty of water. Or tea. More tea.
Pain in the joints, boredom of stillness.
You can't stay too long in one place. Something base and human as the
Many years ago, I read The Bell Jar: this is what I wanted and didn't get from it. While Plath's novel was full of details and attitudes that seemed really alien to me, Galloway's character is incredibly, worryingly familiar.

That's the thing about it, of course: I'm not the only person to see shades of myself in Joy Stone (I see what you did with her name, Janice Galloway), but the things I recognise are probably different to the next person. But it's so relatable, so very, very reasonable, that
Ever find yourself entirely unable to describe or explain something you enjoyed reading/watching/consuming? The Trick is to Keep Breathing fits right into that category. Maybe some novels are just not meant to be reviewed. Stories are sometimes most memorable for the ways they make you feel. Charting the breakdown of a young teacher (the ironically-monikered Joy) in the wake of her partner's death, it dabbles in formal experimentation – a review quoted on the cover of my 1997 paperback copy desc ...more
The Trick Is to Keep Breathing by Janice Galloway is a book full of desperate sadness that manages to also be funny and alternately exhausting and exhilarating. Joy Stone, an art teacher, has lost two men-a husband through break-up and, more recently, a lover through drowning. She is battling despair and self-disgust through a deep depression and anorexia. But her voice still comes through with wit and warmth. As she struggles to stay connected to this world and not the world of loss and to rema ...more
Nov 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I will come back to this after a second read. I read it in 24 hours. It has received praise for its literary qualities and I concur; don't have much to add save that the formal textual fragmentation just about works without drawing attention to itself, and is pretty minimal anyway so don't let that put you off. The thing that I will return to is my shock of recognition: here, in some way I suppose the literary or expressive does matter since the form of thinking matters to one caught in the web ...more
Charlotte Jones
Sep 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I won this book in a giveaway and I have to admit, I probably wouldn't have picked this book up on my own, but I am so glad that I got a chance to read this Scottish modern classic.

First of all I would like to say that this novel contains triggers for anorexia, anxiety and depression, amongst other mental health issues. There are also sex scenes throughout, some of which are very uncomfortable to read about because of the mental state of the protagonist.

Usually this wouldn't be the type of book
Apr 05, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology
This was ok. It's a book about a 27 year old girl who descends into depression and is institutionalized at some point also. The writing was beautiful in places but i didn't fully understand what was going on at times. Maybe that was the point of the writing to confuse you so that you got a better understanding of the confusion that the protagonist is going through. Here are a few of the best bits for me from the book:

There are split seconds in the morning between waking and sleep when you know n
Jun 20, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
'The trick is' not to start reading!
Page 128 and half way through. I feel I have wasted precious reading time and won't be going any further with this. Tedious, abstract, confusing, it does express the nature of mental illness well, but does nothing to entertain the reader. If anything, it's more of a fictional description of one woman's experience; a glimpse into the hopelessness of it all. It it is not make good material for 'entertaining' or 'escapist' reading. It I wanted informative accoun
A moving story of the inner thoughts of a young woman suffering from depression after a severe loss. It’s told through her own inner dialogue and journal entries. I found it quite moving and her analyzation of things not only a very good depiction of grief and depression, but some very on point truisms about life.
I have wanted to read this for absolutely ages. I am quite familiar with Galloway’s work, having read both volumes of her autobiographies which have been published thus far, and her collected short stories, but I hadn’t got to any of her novels before spotting this in the library.

I was expecting such to be the case, but The Trick Is To Keep Breathing is beautifully written from the beginning. Indeed, from the first paragraph alone, I knew that I would be awarding it at least a four-star, if not
Mar 18, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked up The Trick Is To Keep Breathing by Janice Galloway, first because I was a huge Garbage fan in high school so the title stood out to me, and second because the subject matter intrigued me.

Wow, this book might linger with me for quite a while. It's told in a stream of consciousness, diary type style which was very difficult to follow. Much like The Bell Jar, this woman's head is NOT a fun place to be. The main character, ironically named Joy, is trying to cope with the recent death of

One of my favourite books of all time.

"There are split seconds in the morning between waking and sleep when you know nothing. Not just things missing like where or who you are, but nothing. The fact of being alive has no substance. No awareness of skin and bone, the trap inside the skull. For these split seconds you hover in the sky like Icarus. Then you remember.”

Bought in Scotland in my teen years by the love of my life, at least of the first part of my life, I kept coming b
Jan 21, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The main character in this novel, ironically named Joy, is as deeply depressed as any character I’ve encountered. Joy has lost her mother to suicide and has broken off her long-term relationship with a boyfriend. She started an affair with a married man who unexpectedly dies as well. Reviewers say the novel is full “of great warmth and energy”, that “the wit and irony found in moments of depair prove to be Joy’s salvation.” It didn’t feel that way to me. The novel closes with Joy drinking heavil ...more
Mar 31, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is good.
[where good = productive/hardworking/wouldn't say boo]
[where good = value for money]
[where good = neat, acting in a credit-worthy manner]
[where good = not putting anyone out by feeling* too much, blank, unobtrusive]

*Love/Emotion = embarrassment: Scots equation. Exceptions are when roaring drunk or watching football. Men do rather better out of this loophole.
Dec 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Review can also be found at Snow White Hates Apples.

Never have I felt so terrible and sad for a character until Joy Stone (this name made her sadder cause can you imagine a stone having any expression? Especially a happy one?) came along.

The death of her lover, Michael, leaves her in shock and depressed, though what makes her situation more difficult is the fact that she is the mistress. Although her lover was going through the process of his divorce, it (if I remember correctly) wasn’t finalize
Ellie Beranová
Sep 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The saddest and at the same time the most encouraging book about depression that I've ever read. Sometimes I felt almost physically sick while reading the realistic descriptions of the mind cracking up. Not an easy read before the bedtime, but I'd definitely recommend it to everyone interested in their own psyche and the inherent darkness of our shared human condition.
Janice Galloway’s The Trick is to Keep Breathing is a profoundly disturbing story about one woman’s mental breakdown following the death of her lover.

Written in a series of fragments, often sharp, melancholy or bleakly funny, the book reflects the slow inward collapse of Joy Stone’s world as she struggles to make sense of all around her.

This claustrophobic story, which won the American Academy of the Arts E.M. Forster Award in 1994 and the Mind/Allen Lane Book Award in 1990, is a soul-destroying
Kobe Bryant
Oct 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great descriptions of power dynamics
Drowning in the psyche of mental unwellness. This book is a must read for those who want to capture a glimpse of what major depression looks like.
Nov 22, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Nope, to nie była książka dla mnie.
Pamela Scott
Aug 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing

I really enjoyed The Trick Is To Keep Breathing. Galloway takes you deep into the psyche of a woman who is mentally falling apart. This isn’t an easy place to be and the novel becomes overwhelming and claustrophobic at times. I would not have been able to finish it if Galloway had made it any longer. The length is perfect. I was moved to tears because Galloway gives her readers a front row seat to witness someone coming apart at the seams. Joy is the main character and Gallowa
1. i like that i had to interlibrary loan this book and it came from southern methodist university in dallas texas which is now home to the george dubya bush 'presidential' center (note that it isn;t a 'library' like all the other 14 presidential libraries, oh sure he has a 'library' there too but no books so not exactly a library no?) and i was the first person to check this book out since the university bought it in 1995 (sorry dalkey, no disrespect there, it's just how it is in good ol' heart ...more
Nov 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A haunting depiction of grief. The way Galloway plays with form is subtle enough not to be obnoxious but instead to convey accurately the stalled, slow passage of time in depression, and the stalled, slow thinking process of depression. It is also refreshing that this novel defies the recovery narrative progression. This is not a book about getting better. It is a book about getting by, and the passage of time when you are waiting for "this too to pass."

My favourite part is when she is trying to
Jan 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“No matter how often I think I can't stand it anymore, I always do. There is no alternative. I don't fall, I don't foam at the mouth, faint, collapse or die. It's the same for all of us. You can't get out of the inside of your own head. Something keeps you going. Something always does.”

This book was a beautifully written and haunting account of the breakdown of a grief-filled mind. Told through flashbacks and disjointed narrative, with unconventional page layout, this is the best and most beaut
Nov 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scottish
I know that I haven't been reading at all and I put this book off cause I had finals, but now I feel the need to read a ton since I am in the middle of finals. I only had about 60 pages of this left so it really needed to be finished.

Nothing happens in this book. It isn't like My Revolutions where things happen and they are boring in this book nothing actually happens. she is depressed,she thinks about being depressed.

Then it has the classic english ending. If that spoils the book for you I ap
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Janice Galloway was born in Ayrshire in 1955 where she worked as a teacher for ten years. Her first novel, The Trick is to keep Breathing, now widely considered to be a contemporary Scottish classic, was published in 1990. It was shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel, Scottish First Book and Aer Lingus Awards, and won the MIND/Allan Lane Book of the Year. The stage adaptation has been performe ...more
“You would think there's a natural limit to tears: only so much the body can give at one sitting before it runs dry.” 46 likes
“No matter how often I think I can't stand it anymore, I always do. There is no alternative. I don't fall, I don't foam at the mouth, faint, collapse or die. It's the same for all of us. You can't get out of the inside of your own head. Something keeps you going. Something always does.” 38 likes
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