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 on 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.
Girl, Interrupted is a collection of vignettes that tell, sometimes with poignant detail, one teenager’s experience in a mental asylum. Susanna Kaysen details the time she spent in a mental asylum after a doctor had her committed after about twenty minutes of consultation. She explores the nature of insanity and lunacy, questioning the shaky division between sanity and its opposite. She talks about her fellow inmates, some of whom come to tragic ends while others end up surprising her with their continued existences. There is a frankness about Kaysen’s writing that makes it easy to read and a truth about mental illnesses that made me question my own sanity. It was an illuminating read. I recommend it.