Reviews for Girl, Interrupted
The Book Report Reviews 1994 January-February
Mental illness is the subject of this first-person narrative written by a recovered psychiatric patient. Kaysen was 18 years old when she entered a noted psychiatric hospital, where she spent two years. The work is a series of episodes describing how she felt, how she saw other patients and the staff, as well as how she recovered. The episodes are linked by copies of actual documents pertinent to her case: admission interview notes, memoranda relating to her medication, treatment charts, nurse's reports and progress reports. Kaysen's descriptions are crisply drawn and insightful, giving readers a look into the "parallel universe" of the mentally ill. Portrayals of the hospital, staff and other patients are simultaneously sad and humorous, but sensitively written, giving valuable information on mental illness. The title is taken from that of a Vermeer painting described in the final episode of the book. It is this poignant chapter of recovery that ties the episodes together in a most atisfactory manner. Expect high interest in schools where health, sociology and psychology classes are popular. The shortness of the work will appeal to many adolescents. The book has been on the New York Times bestseller list for a number of weeks. Highly Recommended --should be included in all collections. By Carol Jean Pingel, Librarian, Alexander Hamilton High School, Milwaukee, Wisconsin © 1994 Linworth Publishing, Inc.
Kirkus Reviews 1993 March
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 best revenge. Copyright 1999 Kirkus Reviews
Library Journal Reviews 1993 March #2
This is a powerful and moving account of the 17 months Kaysen spent on a ward for teenage girls at McLean Psychiatric Hospital. McLean was the hospital of choice for such famous patients as Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, James Taylor, and Ray Charles. Kaysen, author of the novels Asa, As I Knew Him (Vintage Contemporaries: Random, 1987) and Far Afield (Vintage Contemporaries: Random, 1990), tells her story in a series of short chapters that capture the experience of madness. Her observations about the other young women patients are sharp and touched with a feeling of surrealism that pulls the reader into her world, where the line between sanity and madness becomes murky. As in other works about psychiatric hospitals, this book has its ``good guys'' and its ``bad guys,'' but the author is fairly even-handed in her treatment of both. Included between some of the chapters are copies of documents related to Kaysen's diagnosis and treatment. This is a well-written account of one woman's journey into madness and back. Recommended for general collections.-- Lisa J. Cochenet, Rhinelander Dist. Lib., Wis. Copyright 1993 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 1994 March #4
Kaysen's startling account of her two-year stay at a Boston psychiatric hospital 25 years ago was an eight-week PW bestseller. (Apr.) Copyright 1994 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 1993 April #3
In these brief, direct essays, the author takes a sharp-eyed look back at her nearly two-year stay in a Boston psychiatric hospital 25 years ago. In April 1967, after a 20-minute interview with a psychiatrist she had never seen before, Kaysen, then 18 years old, was admitted to McLean Hospital, diagnosed as a borderline personality. In this series of tightly focused glimpses into this institutionalized world, she writes with a disarming and highly credible suspension of judgment about herself, other patients, the staff and the rules--overt and unspoken--that governed their interactions. Kaysen is an insightful witness, who was able even then to point out to her psychotherapist that his automobiles (a station wagon, a sedan and a sports car) were apt metaphors for his psyche: ego, superego and id. She offers a convincing and provocative taxonomy of experienced insanity--one type characterized by a sped-up, widely inclusive hyper-awareness and another by sluggish response and a sense of time drastically slowed. Supplying reproductions of documents accompanying her stay at McLean, Kaysen ( Asa, As I Knew Him ) draws few conclusions but makes an eloquent case for a broader view of ``normal'' behavior. Author tour. (June) Copyright 1993 Cahners Business Information.