Monday, August 16, 2010

Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen - Book Review #67

Monday, August 16, 2010
Girl, Interrupted
by Susanna Kaysen

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. She spent most of the next two years on the ward for teenage girls in a psychiatric hospital as renowned for its famous clientele - Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, James Taylor, and Ray Charles -as for its progressive methods of treating those who could afford its sanctuary.

I really wanted to like this book, because I loved the movie it was based on. Unfortunately, it turned out to be one of these rare cases when the movie is so much better than the book.

I always wondering what make one book better than the movie and another one worse. I still don’t have a definite answer, because so many factors and variables are involved. It is the time of your life when you watch a movie or read a book. It is your mood. It is the time of the year when you watched or read it. It is whether you watched a movie or read a book first. It is who you watched a movie with or who recommended you a book, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Millions of factors are at works and it is very hard to pin point which one actually influenced you the most to like a movie batter than a book, or other way around.

Girl, Interrupted’s title suits itself. With every chapter I had a feeling that every time Susanna Kaysen sat down to write, she had an idea what she wanted to tell to the reader. Unfortunately, as soon as she started to write someone or something (her cat/dog, her husband/boyfriend, a car outside/a phone inside) interrupted her and she had to wrap up what she was writing very fast. Whenever she was sitting down next time to write, she had a new idea and everything repeated. Each chapter from Girl, Interrupted reads like a separate story that told in a hurry. Almost nothing connects these stories together, except that they are all from approximately the same time of Susanna Kaysen’s life. These stories weren’t even told in chronological order. No, I have to admit that sometimes when author tells bits and pieces not arranged in time, it works out good for the whole story. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a case for Girl, Interrupted. Kaysen was constantly coming back, saying that this event happened before the event she already mentioned much earlier or skipping forward, revealing that this particular issue was still in the future. It read like a one big mess, at least for me.

However, I have to give the credit to Kaysen where the credit is due. Kaysen managed to describe characters very well. They definitely turned out to be fully fleshed out and alive. Either it was because Girl, Interrupted is an autobiography and these characters were real, or because Kaysen could see these people and knew them very well, I don’t know. I can only acknowledge the result.

So to conclude everything I sad above, my advice – if you haven’t read the book or watched the movie, watch the movie and skip the book. After all Angelina Jolie’s Oscar for the role in Girl, Interrupted is well deserved.


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