Thursday, July 30, 2015

*Book Movie Match Up* Girl Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

Genre: Memoir
Published: April 19, 1994
Pages: 192
Ages: 16+
Movie Released: January 14, 2000


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.


I bought a copy of this book at my thrift store because I really enjoyed the movie with Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie. If you've seen the movie, you have a basic idea of what the book is about.

I'm going to start by saying that I think my enjoyment of the book was tempered by my love of the movie. While I was reading, I couldn't help but picture the scenes that coincided with each part of the story, and in most cases the movie scenes were more dynamic. The movie takes us into the life of a girl living in a "loony bin" during the Vietnam era. The book takes us into her mind. In my opinion, the book as it stands would not make a very good movie.

I'm having a hard time reviewing this book objectively because my experience while reading was so tied in to my memories of the movie, and I'm trying really hard not to just compare the two (and failing miserably.) I thought the story was interesting and it was neat getting an insiders view of mental illness and treatment. I found myself appalled at some of the justifications for Ms. Kaysen's admittance to the hospital in the first place, but she seems equally appalled by them. 

Overall I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. 

Buy the Book

Movie Comparison

I have not watched the movie since finishing the book, but I don't feel like I need to since it was playing in my head while I was reading. The book and movie are really only loosely connected in my opinion. The characters are there, and the events are similar, although they play out very differently in the movie than they are portrayed in the book. The movie also adds some scenes that weren't in the book at all (but they may have occurred to Ms. Kaysen nonetheless.)

It's hard to say which is better because they are so different. So I guess if you're looking for something with action and activity that doesn't require a lot of thought, watch the movie. If you'd like to experience the story with more introspection, read the book. Both have their merits and it's easy to understand why the changes were made for the movie, so even though it doesn't really stay true to the book, I'm still going to give it a B. - Katie 

Buy the Movie

About the Author

Susanna Kaysen is an American author.

Kaysen was born and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Kaysen attended high school at the Commonwealth School in Boston and the Cambridge School before being sent to McLean Hospital in 1967 to undergo psychiatric treatment for depression. It was there she was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. She was released after eighteen months. She later drew on this experience for her 1993 memoir Girl, Interrupted, which was made into a film in 1999, her role being played by Winona Ryder.

She is the daughter of the economist Carl Kaysen, a professor at MIT and former advisor to President John F. Kennedy. Her mother, deceased, was sister of architect Richard Neutra. Kaysen also has one sister and has been divorced at least once. She lived for a time in the Faroe Islands, upon which experience her novel Far Afield is based.

No comments:

Post a Comment