I have read a number of Matt Haig’s novels, and enjoyed them very much. This is a memoir, in the main, with elements of self help. In his early twenties Matt had a major episode of depression and anxiety, and they have been with him ever since. This is his story of how he has felt, and what has helped him to stay alive, and find enjoyment in life again. It’s funny, sad, thoughtful and life affirming. The helpfulness of any book depends on the reader, of course, but as someone who doesn’t struggle with depression or anxiety, I appreciate the window into someone’s experiences with them.
Set between 2011 and 2015, this is the story of Marianne and Connell whose relationship begins in secret while they are at school, and how it and they change as they leave their small town and go to Dublin for university. It’s about class, communication, love, abuse, mental illness, friendship and the struggle to find one’s place in the world as an adult. It’s very modern, and made me feel old, but it was very compelling.
It was really great to get a picture of what anxiety can be like to live with; how it feels, and how easy it can be to misunderstand an anxious person. I found that element of this book fascinating and helpful. Otherwise, I found it confused and confusing, contradictory and scattered. There are many more questions in the book, than answers, but perhaps the journey will be helpful to other travellers.
Another solid story in this series of books about Dody, a female autopsy surgeon in Victorian London. This story focused on the suffragette movement and the treatment of female mental patients. The story made me squirm in places as practices towards female patients was rudimentary, the thought that female mental health was totally connected to their sexual organs and removal of those organs did wonders is preposterous! There was not as strong a story line in this volume but I enjoyed learning about early medical practice and am glad times have changed.
Three and a half stars for this dreamlike, poetic, disturbing little book. Hester is kept at home by her cracked religious parents, knowing nothing of the outside world; with only household objects for friends. Her journey to adulthood is sad, frightening, horrific and somehow hauntingly beautiful. Not for the faint hearted, this is a dark book, but with shots of bright colour.