This is a difficult review for me to write, partly because it’s a non fiction book, and most of the stuff I read is fiction.
But also partly because this is a hugely personal book for Bryony Gordon, one that will strike a chord with many readers, including me.
Gordon suffers from OCD. She has done for most of her life. Like most people who suffer from a mental illness, she is vulnerable to other mental illnesses as well.
Mad Girl tells the story of her OCD, from the early signs through to diagnosis and ultimately learning to live with it.
At the same time, she is partying hard and taking drugs, living what seems to be typical London media lifestyle, which combined with her mental illnesses causes some problems.
Bryony manages to explore her own mental illness without descending too much into sentimentality. Perhaps it’s because she’s been writing professionally years without revealing the truth, keeping it guarded.
Perhaps it’s because when she’s no experiencing one of her episodes, she’s like everybody else and she can’t imagine thinking the things she thought, or even doing the things she did. It’s like she was somebody else.
As a result, what we get is a guarded insight into her thoughts. We are a viewer to her episodes. She manages to tell us about them, without us actually experiencing them.
Fiction would bring us into the moment, we would experience the feelings with the protagonist. If Gordon did that, we’d likely be weeping along with her.
Perhaps thankfully, she doesn’t do that. This is real life, not fiction, and that makes it infinitely sadder, infinitely more distressing. If we were truly able to experience it along with her, we’d all be writing our own books afterwards.
The statistics on mental health illnesses are alarming. 1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental illness over the next year, which is why books like this are important. They do two things.
You might be suffering from a mental illness and think that you’re alone, that what you’re experiencing is completely unique. This book will help you realise that what you’re feeling isn’t abnormal, that you’re not alone.
At the same time, you’ll realise that while things can get worse, they can get better.
If you’re not suffering from a mental illness it helps you understand what it’s like to have a mental illness.
Bryony Gordon manages to say everything I’ve wanted to say – about mental illness, and everything else as well. A comment was made at the bottom of one page, which caused me to go off on a mini rant. When I finally turned the page, I discovered that Gordon had almost word for word written that rant down.
I may hire her to follow me round to tell you what I’m thinking. She know exactly what it is, and she puts it so much more eloquently than I. Go read.
Mad Girl scores 4 out of 5 and is published on the 7th June.