My second five star book of the year was Sorrow And Bliss by Meg Mason. It’s a novel about Martha, a British woman approaching 40 who has struggled with mental illness since she was young. She is married to a very kind man named Patrick, but when the book opens, they have decided to split up because their marriage has become untenable. Going back and forth between flashbacks and the present day, Mason describes how Martha’s condition has impacted her life and foreclosed roads of opportunity that she would have otherwise pursued.
Why I picked it up: I have had an ARC of Sorrow And Bliss sitting on my TBR for a long time. Stars aligned when the right mood struck and I found it on audio.
A book about a woman’s mental illness sounds depressing, and certain parts definitely were, but I loved Sorrow And Bliss. It is a sensitive and sympathetic view of a woman who is often unlikeable, but who also doesn’t have the tools she needs to handle her illness. Martha is also quite funny, so the book is infused with a lot of humor. Sorrow And Bliss is searingly honest and realistic, and for this reason I just loved it.Mason’s narrative style varies throughout the book – sometimes it is told through random vignettes without much of a plotline, while other chunks follow a much more linear path. The combination of these two styles provides a textured and complex portrait of Martha and how her past and her condition made her who she is.
Sorrow And Bliss was a perfect book – substantive, real, honest, funny, incisive, illuminating, and ultimately, hopeful.
I listened to Sorrow And Bliss on audio, narrated by British actress Emilia Fox. Her performance was great and I loved the precise British delivery. I feel like Fox had a lot of empathy for Martha, which came through in her narration. My only caution on the audio: the book does jump around a lot and sometimes it’s hard to follow without the visual cues of paragraph breaks. Occasionally I had to rewind or consult my print version to orient myself in the story.
Sorrow And Bliss was the 32nd book of 2022 and satisfies the Book Set Outside the U.S. category of the 2022 EDIWTB Reading Challenge.