Book Review–Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen



This is the 5th book from my 115 in 2015 Reading Challenge.


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Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
Published April 19, 1994 by Vintage

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.





The first half of the book was engaging and hard to put down. I’m not sure what happened after that point, but it became much less interesting. The plot is a little confusing as some of the events are out of order–for what reason, I’m not sure.


The setting is what drew me in. I am fascinated by the psychiatric hospital setting. It was also interesting to see how things worked in the 60s and how much things have changed since then.


This is an autobiography/memoir, but for the most part I enjoyed Susanna’s POV. I would have liked more detail on the other girls, but Polly and Lisa seemed interesting.


There’s not really much going on in terms of relationships in this book aside from Susanna’s relationship with Borderline Personality Disorder. I don’t know much about the disorder, but Susanna’s relationship with it was interesting.


The writing engaged me for the first half of the book. While for the most part it was clear, there were some parts that seemed very vague, and a few where I had to re-read to make sure I’d understood. Good narrative but would have liked to see more details. Also, what in the world does a “basement-colored” person look like?


Didn’t really wrap up well. The first half of the book seemed solid and the second half seemed disorganized. I did like the follow-ups on the two girls Susanna met again after being discharged from the hospital.


Overall, I liked it, but probably not something I’d read again. If the second part had been as engaging as the first, I would probably re-read it. I’m torn on whether I want to keep this book or not. 3.5 Stars.





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