‘Girl, Interrupted’ by Susanna Kaysen

Warning: this is not a book. It’s a painting.

A reader looking for a clear storyline – that is to say a clear beginning, with a discernible central core, maybe an ordeal for the main character and a well-defined conclusion – would be quite disappointed.

There’s no storyline to follow, more like episodes, stories, memories.

A scrapbook of people and experiences from the concrete womb Susanna was locked in, to protect her – or maybe to protect the outside world, to provide some distance between the stigmatized mental illness and the sane, ‘normal’ people.

What Susanna Kaysen wrote is a portrait of mental illness, as if she was drawing brush strokes to compose a painting of her profound distress, a state of mind.

These are her own memories about the time spent in a psychiatric hospital, the McLean Hospital at 115 Mill Street – and go on explaining why you lived there for two years, to a potential employer – diagnosed as affected by a borderline personality.

Along with Susanna’s case, though, In McLean Hospital, there are of course much more complicated cases than a borderline personality.

There are sociopath like Lisa, schizophrenic like Polly and Georgina, victims of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder like Daisy, manic depressive like Cynthia and drug addict like Lisa Cody.

All of these deranged personalities are constantly clashing against the ‘sane’ members of the staff – despite the fact that the night nurse is herself completely nuts.

A clearer shade appears only when this work of memories sits beside the painting that had it all started. Or maybe it just brought it up to light.

Johannes_Vermeer_-_Girl_Interrupted_at_Her_Music_-_WGA24648
Girl interrupted at her music
– Johannes Vermeer

“It’s the painting from whose frame a girl looks out, ignoring her beefy music teacher, whose proprietary hand rests on her chair. The light is muted, winter light, but her face is bright.

I looked into her brown eyes and I recoiled. She was warning me of something – she had looked up from her work to warn me. Her mouth was slightly open, as if she had just drawn a breath in order to say to me, “Don’t!””

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Author: Lena's InkCage

I lived for 23 years in Italy, before giving my life a long-desired twist and leave University to fly to the UK, were I've been living ever since. I attended Creative Writing Courses, but I have also learned how to write poetry as well as screenwriting. At the moment, I am working as professional translator, English Teacher and Italian Tutor.

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