Title: SORROW AND BLISS
Author: Meg Mason
Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Read: September 2020
Expected publication: out now
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟1/2
This novel is about a woman called
Martha. She knows there is something wrong with her but she doesn't know what
it is. Her husband Patrick thinks she is fine. He says everyone has something,
the thing is just to keep going.
Martha told Patrick before they got married that she didn't want to have children. He said he didn't mind either way because he has loved her since he was fourteen and making her happy is all that matters, although he does not seem able to do it.
By the time Martha finds out what is wrong, it doesn't really matter anymore. It is too late to get the only thing she has ever wanted. Or maybe it will turn out that you can stop loving someone and start again from nothing - if you can find something else to want.
The book is set in London and Oxford. It is sad and funny.
What attracted me to this book:
I read YOU BE MOTHER, Meg Mason’s previous book, in 2017, and loved it so much that it made its way onto my “all-time-favourites” list. I couldn’t wait to read her latest one!
Mason writes with so much heart and humour that it is impossible not to get emotionally involved in her stories. Whilst Abi, our main protagonist in YOU BE MOTHER, is a young, inexperienced mother looking for a family to belong to, Martha in SORROW AND BLISS has chosen not to be a mother, for reasons we will gradually get to find out. What both women have in common, however, is their longing to find their place in the world, among other people, and yet finding they never quite fit. Martha has always struggled with people. Mercurial and sensitive, people find themselves drawn to Martha and yet she always seems to ultimately push them away. After her first marriage fails within the first two weeks, she marries Patrick, an old childhood friend, who seems one of the few people unfazed by Martha’s mood swings. The other constant in her life is her sister, Ingrid, who has always stood by Martha and supported her through her darkest times. But there are moments when the darkness threatens to engulf Martha, with no way out. Ultimately, will it make her loose the two people she loves most?
Mason writes about mental illness with a sensitivity and insight rarely found in fiction. Martha’s voice is as authentic as it is unique, warts and all, as she honestly reflects on all aspects of her personality, wondering what it is that makes her different from other people. It was interesting to see how getting a diagnosis changed Martha in ways that someone who does not battle an illness will never truly understand. I loved the way Mason allows us a glimpse inside the deepest corners of Martha’s psyche, even if I felt the weight of Martha’s pain pressing down heavily at times. On the other hand, we get quirky, funny, creative Martha whose sharp wit was refreshing and unique.
Most of all, I enjoyed Mason’s portrayal of family, and the way the people in Martha’s life reacted to her mental illness. From denial to unquestionable support, in the end family was what held Martha together, and each of their characters was a pleasure to read.
All in all, SORROW AND BLISS was a warm, insightful book exploring mental illness through the eyes of a woman who has lived it. Sometimes sad, sometimes funny, and always a revelation, the story carried me along in its wake and made me reflect on the different burdens some people carry through life.
Thank you to Netgalley and HarperCollins Australia for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.