Sorrow and Bliss…
About the Book:
Spiky, sharp, intriguingly dark and tender, full of pathos, fury and wit, Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason is a dazzling, distinctive novel from a boldly talented writer. For fans of Sally Rooney, Taffy Brodesser-Akner and Fleabag.
This novel is about a woman called Martha. She knows there is something wrong with her but she doesn’t know what it is. Her husband Patrick thinks she is fine. He says everyone has something, the thing is just to keep going.
Martha told Patrick before they got married that she didn’t want to have children. He said he didn’t mind either way because he has loved her since he was fourteen and making her happy is all that matters, although he does not seem able to do it.
By the time Martha finds out what is wrong, it doesn’t really matter anymore. It is too late to get the only thing she has ever wanted. Or maybe it will turn out that you can stop loving someone and start again from nothing – if you can find something else to want.
The book is set in London and Oxford. It is sad and funny.
‘I seem to find it more difficult to be alive than other people.’
My heart is so full of so many emotions after reading this utterly perfect and deeply insightful novel. From the first sentence to the last; if you read one book this year, make it this one. If you are intending on buying a book for someone as a gift, make it this one. Seriously, it’s the best.
‘Normal people say, I can’t imagine feeling so bad I’d actually want to die. I do not try and explain that it isn’t that you want to die. It is that you know you are not supposed to be alive, feeling a tiredness that powders your bones, a tiredness with so much fear. The unnatural fact of living is something you must eventually fix.’
Martha is, as you have probably put together from the blurb and these quotes, not well. She suffers and so do those around her, but they love her fiercely. This is Martha’s story, from her teenage years through until the present day. I felt this instant kinship with Martha because she was born in 1977, the same year as me. It’s like this gave me a sense of knowing Martha, although really, it was probably more the incredible writing that did that! But still, her stages of life within the eras were recognisable to me, and this offered a nice a cosy bonus.
‘When someone you know beyond all being, who you have loved and hated and have not seen for three months, is coming towards you, avoiding your eye until the last minute, then smiling at you like he’s not sure when or if you’ve met, what are you meant to do with your hands?’
Despite Martha’s mental instability, this is not just a novel about mental illness and its devastating effects. This is a novel about life: living your best life, eventually, and accepting who you are and what you need to do to keep on living it. It’s about taking responsibility for your behaviour, for yourself and your own wellbeing, not just for others. This is a novel about people, their relationships, their daily interactions, family dynamics; this subset of literature is often tagged life-lit, and it is an apt description. When done well, it’s my favourite type of read, and in this case, it hit the mark in every way possible.
It’s one of the best ‘sister’ books I’ve ever read, and even though it broke me – more than once – Sorrow and Bliss is a novel that has become one of my permanent favourites. It’s sad, yes, but funny as well and written with such honesty, just so perfectly balanced. It’s been likened to Fleabag and Normal People, both of which I loved, and I agree with the comparison. However, don’t be misled into thinking it’s another version of those; Sorrow and Bliss holds its own and then some. It’s a truly remarkable novel and one that I can’t even possibly do justice to with words, and I think it’s important to not hint at too much of what actually happens, as the real pleasure of reading this one comes from the unfolding of the story as you go. Taking Martha’s journey alongside her, just as much in the dark as she is for most of it. So, this is the point where I recommend you just read it for yourself. You can thank me after. You’ll be in need of a debrief and you know where to find me!
Thanks is extended to HarperCollins Publishers Australia for providing me with a copy of Sorrow and Bliss for review.
About the Author:
Meg Mason began her career at the Financial Times and The Times of London. Her work has since appeared in The Sunday Times, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Sunday Telegraph. She has written humour for The New Yorker and Sunday STYLE, monthly columns for GQ and InsideOut and is now a regular contributor to Vogue, ELLE, Stellar and marie claire. Her first book, a memoir of motherhood, Say It Again in a Nice Voice (HarperCollins) was published in 2012. Her second, a novel, You Be Mother (HarperCollins) was published in August 2017. She lives in Sydney with her husband and two daughters.
Sorrow and Bliss
Published by 4th Estate – AU
Released 2nd September 2020