Delighted to share with you today my review for Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason. I have seen so much love for this book of late, that I was thrilled when the lovely people at Midas PR sent me a copy to read and review to celebrate The Cheltenham Literature Festival which takes place between 8-17th October.
The author will be taking part in the festival on Saturday 16th October and will be talking to Clare Clark via live link from her home in Sydney.
The Cheltenham Literature Festival Oct 16th
Everyone tells Martha Friel she is clever and beautiful, a brilliant writer who has been loved every day of her adult life by one man, her husband Patrick. A gift, her mother once said, not everybody gets.
So why is everything broken? Why is Martha – on the edge of 40 – friendless, practically jobless and so often sad? And why did Patrick decide to leave?
Maybe she is just too sensitive, someone who finds it harder to be alive than most people. Or maybe – as she has long believed – there is something wrong with her. Something that broke when a little bomb went off in her brain, at 17, and left her changed in a way that no doctor or therapist has ever been able to explain.
Forced to return to her childhood home to live with her dysfunctional, bohemian parents (but without the help of her devoted, foul-mouthed sister Ingrid), Martha has one last chance to find out whether a life is ever too broken to fix – or whether, maybe, by starting over, she will get to write a better ending for herself.
Brilliantly paced and wonderfully observed, the new novel by Meg Mason, released in hardback back in June, is a brilliant story about a women and her struggles with her mental illness and the impact it has on her life and those closest to her.
Martha is married to Patrick, who she has known since a teenager when her first symptoms appeared and we follow her in present time and via flash backs from this time up to her 40th year, as she experiences more and more episodes of depression and watch as her family, in particular Patrick and her wonderful sister Ingrid, try their best to support her and help her through these times and beyond, often with not a lot in return from Martha herself.
The book explores not just the impact of mental heath issues but also family relationships and motherhood, more precisely a decision to have or not have children. Tender and also brutally written accounts of her day to day life over a 20+ year period with fantastic characters meant I really didn’t want to put this book down and just carried on reading.
Sometimes a slightly unlikeable character, Martha’s sadness is ever present in the novel but this book is full of comic touchers and super one liners, especially from Ingrid, that makes it, in my opinion, a fantastically warm read. Characters like Patrick, Ingrid and Martha’s Aunt Winsome add such a ray of hope and love to the story that stops it becoming a saddening read, also Martha’s relationship with her older friend and mentor Peregrine shows that there is love still within her. In fact I found the book almost a love story, not just between Martha and Patrick but between Martha and herself.
The author chooses not to name the condition Martha has, stating at the end of the book that her symptoms and treatment are fictional. Although at first I was a little confused by this I felt that it was a wise move. So many conditions including mental illness can vary between one sufferer to another that it stops a reader possibly shelf diagnosing or comparing it too closely to their own experiences.
A fantastic read who’s characters have long stayed with me since finishing the book.