With Sorrow and Bliss, Meg Mason takes us on a journey of the impact undiagnosed mental illness can have. Martha, the main character, isn’t diagnosed until the age of 39. Her specific illness is never confirmed in the book, it’s only referred to as “_”, keeping the focus on the ripple effects rather than the illness.
I was reminded somewhat of Holly Smale, a writer I’ve followed for a long time, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 39. She has spoken many times about the impact of a late diagnosis, as well as its importance for understanding yourself.
Sorrow and Bliss is a heavy read, but lightened with moments of dark comedy, clever repartee, and ever-so-British awkwardness. Interactions between Martha and her sister, Ingrid, especially serve to bring some much needed lightness. The style of dark, sarcastic comedy reminded me a lot of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag character, which is who I had in mind as I conjured up my image of Martha.
What makes this book heavy is that there’s no sugar coating the negative impact that undiagnosed mental illness can have not only on an individual, but also their loved ones. We’re greeted with Martha’s ugly side in many places of the book as we follow her messy, complicated relationships.
I got a lot of value from this book and greatly admire the way Meg Mason presented such a complex subject.