It tells the bittersweet story of the protagonist Martha, and the challenges that she faces throughout her life as she battles with mental illness.
Sorrow and Bliss is a very witty, often laugh-out-loud funny, but also gut-wrenching book to read. The main character Martha is sharp and highly intelligent, yet she is struck by a mystery depression that engulfs her when she’s 18 and never fully leaves.
The sad story is expertly propped up by her eccentric family and explores the relationships with her family and her husband. The book begins with her desperately awkward 40th birthday celebration and then goes back to her life at home when she is due to sit her A ‘Levels.
Martha is a very likeable character, but for me personally, I found the most interest in her family members and how her illness impacts them all individually. Her long-suffering husband, Patrick is kind and supportive, but she ultimately begins to resent his patience and stoic approach which leads to even more friction and disfunction.
Without spoiling too much of the plot, what I liked most about the story is that Mason chooses not to offer a label or diagnosis. The impact of that is very powerful, as it is dealing with the consequences and effects of depression rather than an explanation of symptoms. It is very realistic in the way that not everyone has a specific condition, just that something is off balance.
This is an interesting approach and makes the reader more inclined to fit their own experiences of depression and empathise with the character's journey. Not everything needs a definition to make it valid. Martha’s sensitivity is extremely heightened and although it makes life challenging it also makes her a highly attuned person and is what her family loves about her.
I read Sorrow and Bliss whilst on holiday, and although at moments it can be sad and difficult reading, the humour provided by her sister, aunt and mother helps to cut through the pain and make it liveable, not too dissimilar to real life.
Don’t take my word for it, grab yourself a copy and give Sorrow and Bliss a read!
Critical praise for Sorrow and Bliss
The Guardian writes 'It is impossible to read this novel and not be moved. It is also impossible not to laugh out loud... Extraordinary' ‘Completely brilliant, I loved it. I think every girl and woman should read it. ‘- Gillian Anderson
Cosmopolitan describes it as; 'razor-sharp exploration of mental health and identity. Hilarious and heart-breaking, this is best enjoyed over a large glass of rosé on a sunny afternoon.' Claire Allfree - METRO writes 'A viciously funny novel about mental illness that combines acute social satire with warmth and insight.'
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