I seem to be having a lot of luck at the moment when it comes to picking up a book I expected nothing of and then finding out it’s a super star. ‘Mad Girl’ by Bryony Gordon is one such book. I am writing this having quite literally just finished it and my-oh-my it’s a corker.
In 300 pages, Bryony Gordon spills the dark truths and long unspoken secrets of her life, her mental illness, and her struggles growing up. Although I do not have the OCD, bulimia, or depression that Gordon details in this book, I still really connected to the sense of hopelessness that accompanies growing up, the sense of disgust that comes from looking back at your teenage years and the terrible choices you made that seemed like great ideas, followed by the sense that you need to control everything even when you know it is impossible to. I found Gordon’s witty and hilarious writing style uplifting and reassuring rather than alienating and strange as I had expected. No, she doesn’t hide her mental health issues, but at the same time they don’t completely define her or her experiences. If you asked me to describe this book in one sentence I would have to say it is a book about growing up and trying to be an adult all the while being peppered by mental health problems. It isn’t a morbid read nor does it paint a naive and fake account of mental health issues, but Gordon’s writing style makes you part of a conversation rather than just watching on in horror and despair.
I have to say I think my favourite chapter is early on in the book, titled ‘I think I might be normal.’ Bryony writes against the assumptions she says follows books about mental health issues and that this isn’t always a reason for them (the mental health not the literature). She writes that living with mental health issues doesn’t mean that you live a life full of horror and sadness and grim life experiences. She talks about her normal family and her normal school days and her normal (though potentially embarrassing) 90s fashion. She reminds you that mental health issues doesn’t mean you can’t be happy. I liked it because honestly I connected to it so much: the nostalgia, the embarrassment, the slight fear that, oh no, I’m normal and boring. They seem like such simple things but the ‘right’ to feel is something we should all express without embarrassment or feeling like we aren’t suffering enough to warrant feeling a certain way. I loved it because it was like being shaken by a book and told not to be so silly and hard on yourself.
This little book is a dream, let me just tell you. It’s honest. It’s hilarious. It’s infuriating. It’s heartbreaking. It’s perfect. Go on, give it a read and prove me wrong.
Until next time,