Girl, Interrupted
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Girl, Interrupted

By (author) Susanna Kaysen

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In 1967, after a session with a psychiatrist she'd never seen before, eighteen-year-old Susanna Kaysen was put in a taxi and sent to McLean Hospital to be treated for depression. She spent most of the next two years on the ward for teenage girls in a psychiatric hospital renowned for its famous clientele - Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, James Taylor and Ray Charles. A clear-sighted, unflinching work that provokes questions about our definitions of sane and insane, Kaysen's extraordinary memoir encompasses horror and razor-edged perception while providing vivid portraits of her fellow patients and their keepers.

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  • Paperback | 192 pages
  • 124 x 194 x 14mm | 158.76g
  • 17 Feb 2000
  • Little, Brown Book Group
  • Virago Press Ltd
  • London
  • English
  • Film tie-in.
  • facsimiles
  • 1860497926
  • 9781860497926
  • 1,511

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Author Information

Susanna Kaysen was born in 1948 and brought up in Cambridge, Massachusetts where she still lives. She has written two novels, ASA, AS I KNEW HIM and FAR AFIELD. While working on the latter, memories of her two year stay at McLean's psychiatric hospital began to emerge. With the help of a lawyer she obtained her 350 page file from the hospital. GIRL, INTERRUPTED followed.

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Review quote

Not since Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar has a personal account of life in a mental hospital achieved as much popularity and acclaim TIME MAGAZINE Intelligent and painful GUARDIAN Girl, Interrupted is superb, poignant and more powerful for its lack of romantic inflation, whining, or self-congratulation SCOTLAND ON SUNDAY Susanna Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted is the autobiographical story of the author's time in a psychiatric award in 1967. Sylvia Plath was a patient at the same hospital in the early 1950s so inevitably comparisons have been made between Plath's The Bell Jar Kaysen's account goes further and questions the standard notions of sanity and insanity. Her plausible voice allows the reader to accept a world where time is distorted, chaos reigns and questions are left unanswered, capturing perfectly the sense of help

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Review text

When Kaysen was 18, in 1967, she was admitted to McLean Psychiatric Hospital outside Boston, where she would spend the next 18 months. Now, 25 years and two novels (Far Afield, 1990, Asa, As I Knew Him, 1987) later, she has come to terms with the experience - as detailed in this searing account. First there was the suicide attempt, a halfhearted one because Kaysen made a phone call before popping the 50 aspirin, leaving enough time to pump out her stomach. The next year it was McLean, which she entered after one session with a bullying doctor, a total stranger. Still, she signed herself in: "Reality was getting too dense...all my integrity seemed to lie in saying No." In the series of snapshots that follows, Kaysen writes as lucidly about the dark jumble inside her head as she does about the hospital routines, the staff, the patients. Her stay didn't coincide with those of various celebrities (Ray Charles, Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell), but we are not likely to forget Susan, "thin and yellow," who wrapped everything in sight in toilet paper, or Daisy, whose passions were laxatives and chicken. The staff is equally memorable: "Our keepers. As for finders - well, we had to be our own finders." There was no way the therapists - those dispensers of dope (Thorazine, Stelazine, Mellaril, Librium, Valium) - might improve the patients' conditions: Recovery was in the lap of the gods ("I got better and Daisy didn't and I can't explain why"). When, all these years later, Kaysen reads her diagnosis ("Borderline Personality"), it means nothing when set alongside her descriptions of the "parallel universe" of the insane. It's an easy universe to enter, she assures us. We believe her. Every word counts in this brave, funny, moving reconstruction. For Kaysen, writing well has been the beat revenge. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Customer reviews

not recommended

a book that i won't recommend. except with the true hospital records of the author's depressive disorder, there's nothing else to impress me. and even with the records, they're printed in very small letters which it's difficult if not impossible to read.show more
by mickey ip