This month I reread some of the most captivating novels I own. Second time around, they are still as enchanting, some of the most emotion evoking books I have ever been lucky enough to stumble across. These books are of great importance to me. Hopefully you’ll enjoy them as much as I have and continue to do.
1. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Published in 1963 under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas, this was Sylvia Plath’s first and only novel. Much like her poetry, particularly like the poems from her collection Ariel, Plath used her own emotions and life experiences as inspiration. This semi-autobiographical novel follows the young Esther Greenwood, who comes from the suburbs of Boston, working as in intern for a prominent New York magazine. Frightened and disorientated by the large, glamorous city, Greenwood finds herself falling into deep and intense depression. This dark novel is both a powerful story and an extraordinary insight into the feelings Plath struggled with for much of her life. Plath is one of my favourite writers, and The Bell Jar is one of my favourite works written by this incredibly talented woman.
2. Sylvia by Leonard Michaels
Set in 1960’s Manhattan, this short novel tells the fictionalised tale of Michaels’ first wife, Sylvia Boch. Michaels, having finished university, is doing little else but writing during his abundance of free time, when he meets Sylvia. A story of paranoia, drugs and sexual fantasies, it is an emotional tribute to their self-destructive relationship, heavily influenced by Sylvia’s precarious mental health. A short, but beautifully written novel, it is an unforgettable story that will sit with you for days after you have finished reading it.
3. The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer
Winner of the Costa Book of the Year Award in 2013 and also known as Where The Moon Isn’t in the American edition, this debut novel of British author and mental health nurse Nathan Filer, is one of the most mesmerizing, eye-opening books I’ve ever, in all my days read. It follows a 19 year old named Matthew, who suffers from intense paranoid-schizophrenia, as he struggles to deal with the grief of losing his brother to a tragic accident during their childhood. Written in the form of a diary by our protagonist himself, it gives us an insight into what the struggle with mental health issues, for many people, really looks like. It is both stunning and haunting, a story that you will never forget.
4. Birds Nest Soup by Hannah Greally.
I first read this book while doing research for a history paper, on the development of mental health services in Ireland, focusing in particular, on the Lunatic Asylums, which became the dumping grounds for people who were different, embarrassing or simply in the way. This book is the story of Hannah Greally, a nurse who came back from London during World War II, traumatised by the war. She entered St.Loman’s Psychiatric Asylum in Mullingar, Ireland, intending to only stay for a few weeks. She would spend the next 18 years of her life there. This book gives us a look into the horrifying and disturbing torment that patients were put through. Mental health was so poorly misunderstood in these days. Unfortunately, this meant that those struggling mental illness, were the ones that bore the brunt of this vacancy in the field of mental health and psychiatric care. This book gives us, even just the smallest perception of what it was like for the thousands of patients who spent some, of if not all of their lives in these prisons.