4 stars

THE PLOT: ‘Sorrow and Bliss’ by Meg Mason is literary women’s fiction about a woman struggling with her mental health and its effect on her marriage. Martha’s husband, Patrick, has adored her since they were kids. But, when he decides to leave, she must reconcile her behaviour that led them to that point. As the novel jumps in time, we see Martha’s upbringing with her distant, alcoholic, artist mother and her well-meaning but ineffectual poet father. And we see the up’s and down’s of her mental health throughout the years, with the one constant being her husband waiting in the shadows.

RATING: Four stars – a stunning, well written book which made me both cry and laugh. I wasn’t 100% sure what I was getting into with this one but I had seen great reviews online. It didn’t disappoint as it’s a moving, intelligent, sensitive book that dives into themes of mental health, family trauma and difficult mother-daughter relationships. The craft is masterful – it cleverly uses a mix of speech marks and reported speech, so you never know exactly what’s being said and what’s being imagined, which intensifies the mental health aspect. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t prepared for the pregnancy storyline and wish someone would have warned me. But, on the whole, this is a very special book that will stay with me for a while.

GOOD BITS: This book hooked me with the nuanced, complex characters and the delicate, well-observed relationships between them. In particular, the female characters had so much depth and the depictions of the mother-daughter and sisterly bonds was heart-breaking and heart-warming in equal measure. My favourite characters were the MC’s aunt and sister who provided comic relief yet also a lot of tenderness. They also gave me that great feeling of personal growth through reading because the author drip-fed information about these characters that caused me to change my opinions and challenge my assumptions.

NOT GOOD BITS: The main character, Martha, is quite annoying and I see why some people would stop reading due to her off-putting nature. She’s whiny, self-centred and, sometimes, cruel. However, this wasn’t a major problem for me because I like realistic characters and I know I’ve acted in this way before… I mean, no-one’s perfect. This is also true of her husband, Patrick, who wasn’t my favourite. There were some redeeming qualities but he was a bit of a simp… Like, I needed him to get some gumption! But I think my strong reaction to these characters shows that the author did her job well.

OVERALL: I’d recommend this book to fans of ‘My Dark Vanessa’ by Kate Elizabeth Russell and ‘Transcendent Kingdom’ by Yaa Gyasi, but it has the humour of ‘I Feel Bad About my Neck’ by Nora Ephron. It won tons of awards, it was a #bookstagram favourite when released, and it lived up to the hype. I’ve already recommended it to friends!

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