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In 1967, after a session with a psychiatrist she'd never seen before, eighteen-year-old Susanna Kaysen was put in a taxi and sent to McLean Hospital. She spent most of the next two years in the ward for teenage girls in a psychiatric hospital as renowned for its famous clientele—Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, James Taylor, and Ray Charles—as for its progressive methods of treating those who could afford its sanctuary.

Kaysen's memoir encompasses horror and razor-edged perception while providing vivid portraits of her fellow patients and their keepers. It is a brilliant evocation of a "parallel universe" set within the kaleidoscopically shifting landscape of the late sixties. Girl, Interrupted is a clear-sighted, unflinching document that gives lasting and specific dimension to our definitions of sane and insane, mental illness and recovery.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
Published: VintageAnchor an imprint of Random House Publishing Group on Jun 19, 2013
ISBN: 9780804151115
List price: $11.99
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Quick read, good insight to being in a mental hospital during the 60s. Enjoyedread more
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Susanna Kaysen shares an episodic account of her two-year stay in a mental institution during her late teens. She recounts the ailments and behavior which led her to the hospital, while also questioning her diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, as well as the manner in which mental illnesses are treated. In order to portray her experience and the experiences of the other young women she encountered within the institution accurately, Kaysen recounts a variety of occurrences, ranging from the grim to the lighthearted. Among Kaysen's recollections are one girl's experience with shock therapy, her own attempt to bite into her hand to ensure that she is "real," and the girls' humorous outing to an ice cream shop.Copies of Kaysen's medical records are juxtaposed against her personal accounts, often making the tone of the former documents unsettlingly cold and detached. Her personal account is often moving, and even the logic Kaysen uses to explain some of her most unusual behavior can make sense. At the same time, she strives for a relatively objective account of her interaction with mental health professionals. Kaysen presents a strong case to support her belief that the line between "normalcy" and mental illness is often muddied,--a thought she summarizes beautifully at the beginning of the book, writing that "Every window in Alcatraz has a view of San Francisco"-- without becoming overly critical of those who diagnosed and treated her.read more
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In 1967, Susanna Kaysen was diagnosed with "borderline personality disorder" and sent to McLean's in Cambridge at the age of eighteen. She stayed there for nearly two years, and in short, non-chronological vignettes describes her life there and shortly after being released.Kaysen brings up questions about the definition of sanity - how do we know where the "border" is between sane and insane, especially when those definitions change over time? The disjointed narrative suited her account, but made it kind of hard for me to follow what was going on.read more
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I loved the plot, storyline.. a story that needs to be told.I really liked all the characters buy wish more information had been given about them. The book seems to mention them and add a little bit from time to time but just enough to keep you wondering and at times frustrated. The actual hospital, doctor notes added flavor to the whole book. I admit I picked it up and couldn't put it down, read through it two sittings but there was something lacking.I liked the perspective from the patient, the girl herself.The only problem I had was.. I wanted more information. It seemed to be too quick of a read for the story that it was. There has to be more info and happenings. I felt like the whole story was not told in a way. I am not sure how to rate this... I also wondered if our main character really had that severe of a mental issue...I know there were issues but that was a long time to be hospitalized. I guess that is why I thought the book should have been longer as she was in the hospital a long time. I did love the title!!!read more
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Kaysen's account of her stay in a rather upscale psychiatric hospital is by turns funny, sad, and disturbing. I read it during a time in my life when I thought I might be on my way to the loony bin myself, and while I wouldn't say it HELPED me necessarily, it was both frightening and a relief to see myself reflected in Susanna Kaysen's account of her mental illness. This book isn't for everyone; I know a lot of people have read it and pronounced it "overrated." I really like it, though, and I think it's beautifully written. I think it's important to realize that Kaysen's experiences are her own, however, and she's not trying to make a statement about everyone who suffers from mental illness. If you take that into account (along with the knowledge that the book isn't much like the film), then you'll be in a better frame of mind for this book.read more
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After one three hour interview with a psychiatrist, 18-year-old Susanna Kaysen is hospitalized in 1967. It's a time when just being different and living outside societies preconceived notions can earn you the label of crazy. Susanna stays within the hospital for two years of her life and she describes her experience with crisp clarity. My immediate notion after reading this book was to compare it to the movie, which has more drama and a more direct and straightforward story arc, but lacks the disjointed beauty of the book and Susanna's often slyly humorous observations. The memoir is compose of short vignettes, which introduce the various people she meets, and is interjected with original documents from her records, along with observations on insanity and the entire psychiatric system. It's really a beautiful book that not only looks at the nature of mind, but how insanity was (and perhaps is) determined as much by gender as by one's actual mental state.read more
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Straight forward account of a girl's stay in a mental institution. She places no blame or passes judgement just recalls the experience as she remembers it. In the end your left wondering whether she needed or even benefited from being placed there or if it was all the result of a doctor overreacting to symptoms that most teenagers at that time were going through.read more
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I saw the movie before I even knew there was a book, I was very surprised at how much better the book is than the movie. This is one of my all time favorite books.read more
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Kaysen was institutionalized for two years when she was 18. This account of her experiences living in a mental hospital is disjointed, with very short chapters taking glimpses of her life, in no particular order. The writing is very fluid and sharp - the descriptions of suffering through psychosis brilliantly told, but the book is far too brief, most of her life is simply skimmed over. Also, she continually tries to convince the reader she was wrongly placed in the mental hospital, but proudly recounts taking fifty aspirin to 'kill' part of her consciousness, stating how symbolic the action was, and how she started gnawing on her hand to make sure she had bones, because she had to convince herself she was a 'real' person. In the end, I am not sure what to make of this little book - but it is a fast read, and certainly interesting.read more
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I was a little disappointed with this book. However, I started reading it with high expectations because I absolutely loved the movie. The characters in the book aren't as well developed and the book kind of jumps around from one thing to the next. I'm the type of person that likes solid plots though, so.... I would consider this more of a diary than a memoir or anything of the sort. Honestly, I think I'm going to stick to watching the movie with this one.read more
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A most impressive read that takes the audience on a journey through the psyche of a depressed teenage girl stuck in a hospital for those with mental disorders. Kaysen paints a picture of her life back in the 60's and awes the reader with her lyrical writing. I loved this book. It moved me and her philosophical ponderings were quite interesting as well.read more
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Loved the movie...hated the book. Usually it is the other way around for me. I found this book difficult to follow, very hard to finish ( thank god it was short), and would not recommened it to others.read more
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I just could not get into it. Fishished it -- but it was a struggle.read more
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In brief, the book describes a young woman's experience with the McLean mental hospital of the late 1960's. This is done with short chapters, each with a simple subject. The book is not a long one. As a person reads it, however, one might find one's self wondering if it isn't like a Blake poem: much depth under the simplicity of the language.Ms. Kaysen does not drop dark hints of things not said. She writes down a set of experiences and hands them to you, her reader. This transaction invites some thought. She wrote the book more than 20 years after the events. Publishing a book is not an afternoon's work, or at least wasn't in the early 90s; she was motivated to communicate. As I read, I looked for markers for who she had in mind as her reader. She selected from more than a year and a half's experiences, and 20 years of time to reflect on them, just this set of things. She wanted to tell me something when she did this. I want to hear her.Some of her messages are emphasized boldly. For example, there is a chapter "Calais is engraved on my heart", a quotation of Queen Mary. In the chapter, she presents her experience of a patient she calls Alice Calais. I think this name is surely chosen for the use of the quotation it affords; using a patient's real name is past unlikely. I think Ms. Kaysen has chosen to shout: "this is important" about what she describes, and what she describes is how a really seriously deranged person looked to her and her friends, even as they lived in a mental hospital themselves. We never find out what became of Alice. There's not even speculation. "Everything's relative" may have been her judgement and the fear of going where Alice was, was very evident. The last line of the chapter is "Don't forget it". Ms. Kaysen has not, and now she has told us too.Ms. Kaysen's use of pages from her hospital record interspersed with her chapter snapshots of experience is interesting: she shows you how it lived and how it was recorded. The contrast is striking. She puts this contrast before you without comment.Ms. Kaysen tells us in some detail how she got into McLean, but rather less about how she got out. She questions her exit diagnosis of "recovered". A woman that can be worried by the later experiences she notes is as recovered as one gets, I think. With black humor she says herself: "I can honestly say my misery has been transformed into common unhappiness, so by Freud's definition I have achieved mental health". Indeed.She presents, finally, a comparison of an earlier and later viewing of the painting occasioning the book's title. It is here that I think she writes down her whole hope when she wrote the book: she says to the girl in the painting, "I see you". And then records a comic non sequitor reaction from her boyfriend when she tells him: "don't you see, she's trying to get out". He doesn't see.read more
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Considering all the hype, I was expecting more from this book. It was definitely easy to read and had some interesting detail when she told her story in narrative form and not technical jargon, but I never found myself identifying or really sympathizing with her. It seems her perogative is to blame everyone else for her problems and she shows no real compassion for others' positions. Not a book I will think about much in the future.read more
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After an initial meeting with a new psychiatrist, eighteen year old Susanna is shipped off to McClean psychiatric hospital where she is to spend the next two years. Descriptions of the ward, the other patients, and Susanna's thoughts and emotions are vivid and often troubling. The narrative is disjointed and raises many more questions than it answers, in particular, who defines insanity. I disliked the portrayal of the mental health system in this book which shows all psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists to be clueless at best, cruel at worst. Though this book takes place in another time (1967), I fear that it might influence young adult readers today to avoid seeking help for fear of being locked away or mistreated. While this was a fast-paced, engrossing read, I think it is best suited for older teen readers because of the fairly adult themes and language. I would likely shelve it in the adult section as I see the Ann Arbor District Library has done. I would also look to balance it in my collection with other books in which troubled characters are able to get the help they need. The Language of Goldfish by Zibby Oneal comes to mind.read more
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I enjoyed very much reading this book (I read it in one afternoon, couldn't stop reading it!). The movie based on it is great, but it is very different from the book.The book is much softer and inside Susana Kaysen's head. I really liked that. The way she though things through and observed her surroundings was very nice. I also liked the questioning side of the book. Who is crazy? and, who gets to say who is sane and who insane?At the end she mentions how homosexuality was once considered a mental illness, and states that maybe her 'craziness' will one day be considered normal. I though this to be very beautiful. Definitively a good read. I recommend it.read more
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Even though I've seen the movie, I picked up this book anyway. What a great writer! I'll be interested to see what else she decides to write. And even though most of the main elements are present in the book...it's almost a whole different story. I'm so glad I read it.read more
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I loved this book - when I got to the end I immediately turned back to the first page and started reading again.It describes a mental state and a way of life that most of us never see.Part of what fascinates me about this book is that regardless of what the author says, I think the diagnosis (of Borderline Personality Disorder) was spot on. The fact that she's looking through that lens - and that, frankly, you can't trust her to even know when she's dissembling - is what makes it more than just a straightforward memoir.read more
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About half of this book is devoted to straightforward anecdotes about everyday life in a mental hospital. These chapters are interesting and informative. Another quarter or so is dedicated to attempting to convince the reader that the author was committed (actually, she was a voluntary walk-in, but says she was tricked into it) on the strength of a thirty-minute doctor's interview. These chapters grow wearisome and annoying quickly. The rest of the book, and here's where I have real problems, is dedicated to pompous, arch diatribes on "the quality of the insanity, the day-to-day business of being nuts." Here are some illuminating excerpts: "Viscosity causes the stillness of disinclination; velocity causes the stillness of fascination." "A lethargic avalanche of synthetic thought can take days to fall." "It was my misfortune -- or salvation -- to be at all times perfectly conscious of my misperceptions of reality. I never 'believed' anything I thought or saw. Not only that, I correctly understood each new weird activity." Call me crazy, but all this sounds like bullshit. That last quote highlights something else very irritating about the author: her constant struggle to have it both ways. She craves the "insane" label so that she can deliver dull lectures on the subject ("Insanity comes in two basic varieties: slow and fast"), pal around with the fun-loving psych ward girls ("In a strange way we were free"), and think of herself as so preciously broken ("They [normal people] were all seventeen and miserable, just like me. They didn't have time to wonder why I was a little more miserable than most"). Yet her relationship with her condition is a definite love/hate-type thing. She constantly downplays her own diagnosis ("I knew I wasn't mad"), recasting it as a patriarchal society's punishment for a too-cool chick. She can't stand that her stay in an asylum gives her a disadvantage in a cockfight with a doctor: "He can say it because he's a doctor. If I said it, nobody would believe me." Isn't there supposed to be some benefit to a degree that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars and twelve years of study? Shouldn't that mean your opinion matters a little more than that of an uneducated loony? At all times, the author exudes a snotty, bitchy aura. Of her diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, she sneers, "So these were the charges against me. I didn't read them until twenty-five years later." Take that, old man! She didn't even read them! "One of my teachers told me I was a nihilist. He meant it as an insult but I took it as a compliment." You go, girl! You go! "This was ME...I was not going to type term bills or sell au gratin bowls or do any other stupid things." Die...just die. When she finally does get a job, she has trouble following the dress code and rebels against the no-smoking rule. "I was the one person who had trouble with the rules. Everybody else accepted them. Was this a mark of my madness?" No, it's a mark of your bitchiness. The attempt to justify the one with the other is the hallmark of this book and, I find it impossible not to imagine, the hallmark of the author and the person.read more
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Susanna Kaysen was eighteen years old when a psychiatrist she had never met before diagnosed her with borderline personality disorder and sent her off to McLean, a mental hospital in Massachusetts. Within the scarily strict confines of the hospital—“checks” every five minutes, maximum security, three doctors every day—Susanna witnesses the comings and goings of some eclectic patients, as well as the constancy of some more of her “friends.” Nearly two years later, Susanna is released from McLean. But is she cured? The doctors say she is “recovered,” but how does one recover from something that is extremely subjective in the first place?GIRL, INTERRUPTED is a fantastically written account of a stay in a mental hospital, in a time of American history where mental disorders were undergoing a sort of baby boom themselves, with people being diagnosed and confined to wards left and right. Kaysen artistically challenges the rampant diagnoses of mental illnesses. Readers will shudder—and yet be awed—at the circumstances she underwent, and wonder, perhaps a little depressingly, whether they could possibly be diagnosed for mental illness as well in such an unforgiving and untrusting world. Highly recommended!read more
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I read this book in one sitting!Memoir of Kaysen's two year stay at McLean Hospital, a psychiatric institution in Massachusetts, when she was eighteen years old. Kaysen's memoir was made into a movie in 1999, starring Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie.Kaysen writes a affecting account of her stay at McLean. No melodrama, just her observations are recorded. She has humanized a place that few people know about.Kaysen also gives the reader insight into the ravages of mental illness and the diagnosis and treatments in use at the time (1967).A moving account of a horrifying experience, elogquently told by a participant.(Read January 2002)read more
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Slightly slow and bitty start to this memoir but I did finish the book feeling satisfied by having read it.I had previously seen the film, and comparing the two, I would probably say I enjoyed the film more, however that's probably because the film followed a sequence of events, and the book was quite choppy in that there was no particular timeline.I am still not sure whether the author suffered from a personality disorder or not, and I'm not sure whether Kaysen is in denial about her mental health. I think if anything, clarity on that would have given the book a higher rating from me. Perhaps I missed the point?read more
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Interesting! All the way through the book I kept wondering, is she really mentally ill? or just a teen coping with typical teen stuff in a less acceptable way? Makes you think.read more
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In Girl, Interrupted, Kaysen tells the story of her time in a mental hospital without lies or embellishment. At times just the story of a group of teenage girls, Kaysen’s memoir tells not only of life in a psychiatric ward, but also the life of a close-knit group of friends who look out for each other. The girls' acts of protecting each other from the world around them can be seen in different forms throughout most people’s lives, sane or insane. Kaysen was one of the most "sane" girls in her ward which made her story relatable to all readers, not just as a tale of insanity, but as a portrayal of the fact that the line between sane and insane is ever changing, and easily crossed.read more
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I read this book a long time ago--years before the movie came out and wasn't terribly impressed. I found the writing somewhat immature and not much reason for the accolades poured on Kaysen--maybe i need to give it another chance?read more
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Quick and easy read, I finished it in a few hours without meaning to. Could have stood to be a longer book. The most interesting parts are those where Kaysen talks about her thoughts, her inner world, and particularly the part where she disects her diagnosis. The books feels like a criticism of the system that locked her away for two years, but it's hard to see it as a strong criticism when she doesn't seem to express any anger at anyone, either the system or herself, nor talk about her perceptions of her time there and how it changed her, other then eluding to it in one anecdote near the end. While the introcpective parts were good, and a lot of the description was nice, I felt the characters of the other 'inmates' lacked depth, presumably because of the short format of the book. It could have used more descrption and more personal reflection on Kaysen's part as to her feelings and thoughs, as opposed to just the outlines of the anecdotes.read more
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I really enjoyed the quick read aspect of this book. While Susanna did indeed spend some time near the end of her book describing her specific illness it was not overwhelming by any means. I have never seen the movie so I can not make any comment as to the reflection between the two. The book includes paperwork from the mental hospital in which Susanna spent her 18th & 19th year; paperwork regarding diagnosis and treatment, etc.Basically, she made a creative little story of many characters with whom she shared the female mental ward with for those 18 months. It gave some insight into how life on a mental ward was for low risk mental patients in the late 1960's. Do not read this book if you are looking for hard core mental health diagnosis or a current picture of how mental hospitals are run today, it is in no waythe same.read more
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I have to say, I was disappointed by this book. I'd seen the film, which had quickly catapulted its way into my 'favourites of all time', and was eager to read Kaysen's story for myself. Unfortunately, this was a case of the movie being better than the book, memoir or no memoir.I enjoyed the movie because it had style. It had a lot of humour, a lot of heart, whilst never shying away from the darkness and turbulent reality of living in a mental institution. There was a story, a chronology, and I cared deeply about each and every one of the women so that when bad things happened, I was devastated, and when good things happened, I smiled too. Being manic depressive myself, I related to them in their spirited and joyful moments as well as in their miserable and frightened ones.Kaysen's book, by contrast, just doesn't work that way. It is extremely disjointed, with no chronology to speak of, and therefore rather confusing. The small, sometimes bizarre episodes skip between times and places, and are never long enough for the reader to become attached to anyone. The good and bad of these tormented lives doesn't have the same resonance, and so I ended up reading the whole book without being moved at all. I can see what Kaysen was trying to do - to show the reader how her mind was working, how images and memories and hallucinations melded into one whirlwind of madness, how time moves differently in an institution - but so much is lost this way that it almost cancels out its own meaning.On the other hand, some of the the descriptions of difficult concepts and experiences are brilliantly written. Moments of psychosis are evoked with brutal clarity, giving a vivid picture of the bizarre images and terrifying emotions that can overtake even the brightest minds.Ultimately though, this was an empty book for me. I found its style and construction interesting enough to write my A-level coursework on it, but like 'The Bell Jar' and 'Catcher in the Rye', those other beacons for alienated teens everywhere, it just didn't shift the earth for me. I haven't kept my copy and I'll be sticking to the movie in the future!read more
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This book is very good. It was harder to follow at first, but once you got into the story it made more sense. I really enjoyed all of the characters in the story. They all had a different distinct personality, and they all kind of moved to the same flow of being in the hospital. The end was especially great though, because when she started seeing all of the girls from the hospital, and where they have ended up in life. I would have never suspected that Lisa would have had a child, but she did. This story is especially interesting, because you see everyone's different viewpoints from staying in the hospital. I really enjoyed this book!read more
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Quick read, good insight to being in a mental hospital during the 60s. Enjoyed
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Susanna Kaysen shares an episodic account of her two-year stay in a mental institution during her late teens. She recounts the ailments and behavior which led her to the hospital, while also questioning her diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, as well as the manner in which mental illnesses are treated. In order to portray her experience and the experiences of the other young women she encountered within the institution accurately, Kaysen recounts a variety of occurrences, ranging from the grim to the lighthearted. Among Kaysen's recollections are one girl's experience with shock therapy, her own attempt to bite into her hand to ensure that she is "real," and the girls' humorous outing to an ice cream shop.Copies of Kaysen's medical records are juxtaposed against her personal accounts, often making the tone of the former documents unsettlingly cold and detached. Her personal account is often moving, and even the logic Kaysen uses to explain some of her most unusual behavior can make sense. At the same time, she strives for a relatively objective account of her interaction with mental health professionals. Kaysen presents a strong case to support her belief that the line between "normalcy" and mental illness is often muddied,--a thought she summarizes beautifully at the beginning of the book, writing that "Every window in Alcatraz has a view of San Francisco"-- without becoming overly critical of those who diagnosed and treated her.
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In 1967, Susanna Kaysen was diagnosed with "borderline personality disorder" and sent to McLean's in Cambridge at the age of eighteen. She stayed there for nearly two years, and in short, non-chronological vignettes describes her life there and shortly after being released.Kaysen brings up questions about the definition of sanity - how do we know where the "border" is between sane and insane, especially when those definitions change over time? The disjointed narrative suited her account, but made it kind of hard for me to follow what was going on.
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I loved the plot, storyline.. a story that needs to be told.I really liked all the characters buy wish more information had been given about them. The book seems to mention them and add a little bit from time to time but just enough to keep you wondering and at times frustrated. The actual hospital, doctor notes added flavor to the whole book. I admit I picked it up and couldn't put it down, read through it two sittings but there was something lacking.I liked the perspective from the patient, the girl herself.The only problem I had was.. I wanted more information. It seemed to be too quick of a read for the story that it was. There has to be more info and happenings. I felt like the whole story was not told in a way. I am not sure how to rate this... I also wondered if our main character really had that severe of a mental issue...I know there were issues but that was a long time to be hospitalized. I guess that is why I thought the book should have been longer as she was in the hospital a long time. I did love the title!!!
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Kaysen's account of her stay in a rather upscale psychiatric hospital is by turns funny, sad, and disturbing. I read it during a time in my life when I thought I might be on my way to the loony bin myself, and while I wouldn't say it HELPED me necessarily, it was both frightening and a relief to see myself reflected in Susanna Kaysen's account of her mental illness. This book isn't for everyone; I know a lot of people have read it and pronounced it "overrated." I really like it, though, and I think it's beautifully written. I think it's important to realize that Kaysen's experiences are her own, however, and she's not trying to make a statement about everyone who suffers from mental illness. If you take that into account (along with the knowledge that the book isn't much like the film), then you'll be in a better frame of mind for this book.
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After one three hour interview with a psychiatrist, 18-year-old Susanna Kaysen is hospitalized in 1967. It's a time when just being different and living outside societies preconceived notions can earn you the label of crazy. Susanna stays within the hospital for two years of her life and she describes her experience with crisp clarity. My immediate notion after reading this book was to compare it to the movie, which has more drama and a more direct and straightforward story arc, but lacks the disjointed beauty of the book and Susanna's often slyly humorous observations. The memoir is compose of short vignettes, which introduce the various people she meets, and is interjected with original documents from her records, along with observations on insanity and the entire psychiatric system. It's really a beautiful book that not only looks at the nature of mind, but how insanity was (and perhaps is) determined as much by gender as by one's actual mental state.
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Straight forward account of a girl's stay in a mental institution. She places no blame or passes judgement just recalls the experience as she remembers it. In the end your left wondering whether she needed or even benefited from being placed there or if it was all the result of a doctor overreacting to symptoms that most teenagers at that time were going through.
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I saw the movie before I even knew there was a book, I was very surprised at how much better the book is than the movie. This is one of my all time favorite books.
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Kaysen was institutionalized for two years when she was 18. This account of her experiences living in a mental hospital is disjointed, with very short chapters taking glimpses of her life, in no particular order. The writing is very fluid and sharp - the descriptions of suffering through psychosis brilliantly told, but the book is far too brief, most of her life is simply skimmed over. Also, she continually tries to convince the reader she was wrongly placed in the mental hospital, but proudly recounts taking fifty aspirin to 'kill' part of her consciousness, stating how symbolic the action was, and how she started gnawing on her hand to make sure she had bones, because she had to convince herself she was a 'real' person. In the end, I am not sure what to make of this little book - but it is a fast read, and certainly interesting.
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I was a little disappointed with this book. However, I started reading it with high expectations because I absolutely loved the movie. The characters in the book aren't as well developed and the book kind of jumps around from one thing to the next. I'm the type of person that likes solid plots though, so.... I would consider this more of a diary than a memoir or anything of the sort. Honestly, I think I'm going to stick to watching the movie with this one.
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A most impressive read that takes the audience on a journey through the psyche of a depressed teenage girl stuck in a hospital for those with mental disorders. Kaysen paints a picture of her life back in the 60's and awes the reader with her lyrical writing. I loved this book. It moved me and her philosophical ponderings were quite interesting as well.
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Loved the movie...hated the book. Usually it is the other way around for me. I found this book difficult to follow, very hard to finish ( thank god it was short), and would not recommened it to others.
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I just could not get into it. Fishished it -- but it was a struggle.
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In brief, the book describes a young woman's experience with the McLean mental hospital of the late 1960's. This is done with short chapters, each with a simple subject. The book is not a long one. As a person reads it, however, one might find one's self wondering if it isn't like a Blake poem: much depth under the simplicity of the language.Ms. Kaysen does not drop dark hints of things not said. She writes down a set of experiences and hands them to you, her reader. This transaction invites some thought. She wrote the book more than 20 years after the events. Publishing a book is not an afternoon's work, or at least wasn't in the early 90s; she was motivated to communicate. As I read, I looked for markers for who she had in mind as her reader. She selected from more than a year and a half's experiences, and 20 years of time to reflect on them, just this set of things. She wanted to tell me something when she did this. I want to hear her.Some of her messages are emphasized boldly. For example, there is a chapter "Calais is engraved on my heart", a quotation of Queen Mary. In the chapter, she presents her experience of a patient she calls Alice Calais. I think this name is surely chosen for the use of the quotation it affords; using a patient's real name is past unlikely. I think Ms. Kaysen has chosen to shout: "this is important" about what she describes, and what she describes is how a really seriously deranged person looked to her and her friends, even as they lived in a mental hospital themselves. We never find out what became of Alice. There's not even speculation. "Everything's relative" may have been her judgement and the fear of going where Alice was, was very evident. The last line of the chapter is "Don't forget it". Ms. Kaysen has not, and now she has told us too.Ms. Kaysen's use of pages from her hospital record interspersed with her chapter snapshots of experience is interesting: she shows you how it lived and how it was recorded. The contrast is striking. She puts this contrast before you without comment.Ms. Kaysen tells us in some detail how she got into McLean, but rather less about how she got out. She questions her exit diagnosis of "recovered". A woman that can be worried by the later experiences she notes is as recovered as one gets, I think. With black humor she says herself: "I can honestly say my misery has been transformed into common unhappiness, so by Freud's definition I have achieved mental health". Indeed.She presents, finally, a comparison of an earlier and later viewing of the painting occasioning the book's title. It is here that I think she writes down her whole hope when she wrote the book: she says to the girl in the painting, "I see you". And then records a comic non sequitor reaction from her boyfriend when she tells him: "don't you see, she's trying to get out". He doesn't see.
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Considering all the hype, I was expecting more from this book. It was definitely easy to read and had some interesting detail when she told her story in narrative form and not technical jargon, but I never found myself identifying or really sympathizing with her. It seems her perogative is to blame everyone else for her problems and she shows no real compassion for others' positions. Not a book I will think about much in the future.
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After an initial meeting with a new psychiatrist, eighteen year old Susanna is shipped off to McClean psychiatric hospital where she is to spend the next two years. Descriptions of the ward, the other patients, and Susanna's thoughts and emotions are vivid and often troubling. The narrative is disjointed and raises many more questions than it answers, in particular, who defines insanity. I disliked the portrayal of the mental health system in this book which shows all psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists to be clueless at best, cruel at worst. Though this book takes place in another time (1967), I fear that it might influence young adult readers today to avoid seeking help for fear of being locked away or mistreated. While this was a fast-paced, engrossing read, I think it is best suited for older teen readers because of the fairly adult themes and language. I would likely shelve it in the adult section as I see the Ann Arbor District Library has done. I would also look to balance it in my collection with other books in which troubled characters are able to get the help they need. The Language of Goldfish by Zibby Oneal comes to mind.
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I enjoyed very much reading this book (I read it in one afternoon, couldn't stop reading it!). The movie based on it is great, but it is very different from the book.The book is much softer and inside Susana Kaysen's head. I really liked that. The way she though things through and observed her surroundings was very nice. I also liked the questioning side of the book. Who is crazy? and, who gets to say who is sane and who insane?At the end she mentions how homosexuality was once considered a mental illness, and states that maybe her 'craziness' will one day be considered normal. I though this to be very beautiful. Definitively a good read. I recommend it.
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Even though I've seen the movie, I picked up this book anyway. What a great writer! I'll be interested to see what else she decides to write. And even though most of the main elements are present in the book...it's almost a whole different story. I'm so glad I read it.
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I loved this book - when I got to the end I immediately turned back to the first page and started reading again.It describes a mental state and a way of life that most of us never see.Part of what fascinates me about this book is that regardless of what the author says, I think the diagnosis (of Borderline Personality Disorder) was spot on. The fact that she's looking through that lens - and that, frankly, you can't trust her to even know when she's dissembling - is what makes it more than just a straightforward memoir.
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About half of this book is devoted to straightforward anecdotes about everyday life in a mental hospital. These chapters are interesting and informative. Another quarter or so is dedicated to attempting to convince the reader that the author was committed (actually, she was a voluntary walk-in, but says she was tricked into it) on the strength of a thirty-minute doctor's interview. These chapters grow wearisome and annoying quickly. The rest of the book, and here's where I have real problems, is dedicated to pompous, arch diatribes on "the quality of the insanity, the day-to-day business of being nuts." Here are some illuminating excerpts: "Viscosity causes the stillness of disinclination; velocity causes the stillness of fascination." "A lethargic avalanche of synthetic thought can take days to fall." "It was my misfortune -- or salvation -- to be at all times perfectly conscious of my misperceptions of reality. I never 'believed' anything I thought or saw. Not only that, I correctly understood each new weird activity." Call me crazy, but all this sounds like bullshit. That last quote highlights something else very irritating about the author: her constant struggle to have it both ways. She craves the "insane" label so that she can deliver dull lectures on the subject ("Insanity comes in two basic varieties: slow and fast"), pal around with the fun-loving psych ward girls ("In a strange way we were free"), and think of herself as so preciously broken ("They [normal people] were all seventeen and miserable, just like me. They didn't have time to wonder why I was a little more miserable than most"). Yet her relationship with her condition is a definite love/hate-type thing. She constantly downplays her own diagnosis ("I knew I wasn't mad"), recasting it as a patriarchal society's punishment for a too-cool chick. She can't stand that her stay in an asylum gives her a disadvantage in a cockfight with a doctor: "He can say it because he's a doctor. If I said it, nobody would believe me." Isn't there supposed to be some benefit to a degree that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars and twelve years of study? Shouldn't that mean your opinion matters a little more than that of an uneducated loony? At all times, the author exudes a snotty, bitchy aura. Of her diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, she sneers, "So these were the charges against me. I didn't read them until twenty-five years later." Take that, old man! She didn't even read them! "One of my teachers told me I was a nihilist. He meant it as an insult but I took it as a compliment." You go, girl! You go! "This was ME...I was not going to type term bills or sell au gratin bowls or do any other stupid things." Die...just die. When she finally does get a job, she has trouble following the dress code and rebels against the no-smoking rule. "I was the one person who had trouble with the rules. Everybody else accepted them. Was this a mark of my madness?" No, it's a mark of your bitchiness. The attempt to justify the one with the other is the hallmark of this book and, I find it impossible not to imagine, the hallmark of the author and the person.
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Susanna Kaysen was eighteen years old when a psychiatrist she had never met before diagnosed her with borderline personality disorder and sent her off to McLean, a mental hospital in Massachusetts. Within the scarily strict confines of the hospital—“checks” every five minutes, maximum security, three doctors every day—Susanna witnesses the comings and goings of some eclectic patients, as well as the constancy of some more of her “friends.” Nearly two years later, Susanna is released from McLean. But is she cured? The doctors say she is “recovered,” but how does one recover from something that is extremely subjective in the first place?GIRL, INTERRUPTED is a fantastically written account of a stay in a mental hospital, in a time of American history where mental disorders were undergoing a sort of baby boom themselves, with people being diagnosed and confined to wards left and right. Kaysen artistically challenges the rampant diagnoses of mental illnesses. Readers will shudder—and yet be awed—at the circumstances she underwent, and wonder, perhaps a little depressingly, whether they could possibly be diagnosed for mental illness as well in such an unforgiving and untrusting world. Highly recommended!
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I read this book in one sitting!Memoir of Kaysen's two year stay at McLean Hospital, a psychiatric institution in Massachusetts, when she was eighteen years old. Kaysen's memoir was made into a movie in 1999, starring Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie.Kaysen writes a affecting account of her stay at McLean. No melodrama, just her observations are recorded. She has humanized a place that few people know about.Kaysen also gives the reader insight into the ravages of mental illness and the diagnosis and treatments in use at the time (1967).A moving account of a horrifying experience, elogquently told by a participant.(Read January 2002)
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Slightly slow and bitty start to this memoir but I did finish the book feeling satisfied by having read it.I had previously seen the film, and comparing the two, I would probably say I enjoyed the film more, however that's probably because the film followed a sequence of events, and the book was quite choppy in that there was no particular timeline.I am still not sure whether the author suffered from a personality disorder or not, and I'm not sure whether Kaysen is in denial about her mental health. I think if anything, clarity on that would have given the book a higher rating from me. Perhaps I missed the point?
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Interesting! All the way through the book I kept wondering, is she really mentally ill? or just a teen coping with typical teen stuff in a less acceptable way? Makes you think.
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In Girl, Interrupted, Kaysen tells the story of her time in a mental hospital without lies or embellishment. At times just the story of a group of teenage girls, Kaysen’s memoir tells not only of life in a psychiatric ward, but also the life of a close-knit group of friends who look out for each other. The girls' acts of protecting each other from the world around them can be seen in different forms throughout most people’s lives, sane or insane. Kaysen was one of the most "sane" girls in her ward which made her story relatable to all readers, not just as a tale of insanity, but as a portrayal of the fact that the line between sane and insane is ever changing, and easily crossed.
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I read this book a long time ago--years before the movie came out and wasn't terribly impressed. I found the writing somewhat immature and not much reason for the accolades poured on Kaysen--maybe i need to give it another chance?
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Quick and easy read, I finished it in a few hours without meaning to. Could have stood to be a longer book. The most interesting parts are those where Kaysen talks about her thoughts, her inner world, and particularly the part where she disects her diagnosis. The books feels like a criticism of the system that locked her away for two years, but it's hard to see it as a strong criticism when she doesn't seem to express any anger at anyone, either the system or herself, nor talk about her perceptions of her time there and how it changed her, other then eluding to it in one anecdote near the end. While the introcpective parts were good, and a lot of the description was nice, I felt the characters of the other 'inmates' lacked depth, presumably because of the short format of the book. It could have used more descrption and more personal reflection on Kaysen's part as to her feelings and thoughs, as opposed to just the outlines of the anecdotes.
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I really enjoyed the quick read aspect of this book. While Susanna did indeed spend some time near the end of her book describing her specific illness it was not overwhelming by any means. I have never seen the movie so I can not make any comment as to the reflection between the two. The book includes paperwork from the mental hospital in which Susanna spent her 18th & 19th year; paperwork regarding diagnosis and treatment, etc.Basically, she made a creative little story of many characters with whom she shared the female mental ward with for those 18 months. It gave some insight into how life on a mental ward was for low risk mental patients in the late 1960's. Do not read this book if you are looking for hard core mental health diagnosis or a current picture of how mental hospitals are run today, it is in no waythe same.
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I have to say, I was disappointed by this book. I'd seen the film, which had quickly catapulted its way into my 'favourites of all time', and was eager to read Kaysen's story for myself. Unfortunately, this was a case of the movie being better than the book, memoir or no memoir.I enjoyed the movie because it had style. It had a lot of humour, a lot of heart, whilst never shying away from the darkness and turbulent reality of living in a mental institution. There was a story, a chronology, and I cared deeply about each and every one of the women so that when bad things happened, I was devastated, and when good things happened, I smiled too. Being manic depressive myself, I related to them in their spirited and joyful moments as well as in their miserable and frightened ones.Kaysen's book, by contrast, just doesn't work that way. It is extremely disjointed, with no chronology to speak of, and therefore rather confusing. The small, sometimes bizarre episodes skip between times and places, and are never long enough for the reader to become attached to anyone. The good and bad of these tormented lives doesn't have the same resonance, and so I ended up reading the whole book without being moved at all. I can see what Kaysen was trying to do - to show the reader how her mind was working, how images and memories and hallucinations melded into one whirlwind of madness, how time moves differently in an institution - but so much is lost this way that it almost cancels out its own meaning.On the other hand, some of the the descriptions of difficult concepts and experiences are brilliantly written. Moments of psychosis are evoked with brutal clarity, giving a vivid picture of the bizarre images and terrifying emotions that can overtake even the brightest minds.Ultimately though, this was an empty book for me. I found its style and construction interesting enough to write my A-level coursework on it, but like 'The Bell Jar' and 'Catcher in the Rye', those other beacons for alienated teens everywhere, it just didn't shift the earth for me. I haven't kept my copy and I'll be sticking to the movie in the future!
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This book is very good. It was harder to follow at first, but once you got into the story it made more sense. I really enjoyed all of the characters in the story. They all had a different distinct personality, and they all kind of moved to the same flow of being in the hospital. The end was especially great though, because when she started seeing all of the girls from the hospital, and where they have ended up in life. I would have never suspected that Lisa would have had a child, but she did. This story is especially interesting, because you see everyone's different viewpoints from staying in the hospital. I really enjoyed this book!
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