From a young age Bryony is plagued by anxiety-inducing thoughts, and when she eventually sees a doctor at the age of 12 she is diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Bryony’s autobiographical text expertly portrays the ups and downs of living with OCD and depression. As well as the relationship between mental health and addiction, and other significant life events she experienced which I won’t mention (no spoilers).
“In the spirit of honesty, I need to tell you right now that this is not a self-help book. If you are looking for that, you have really come to the wrong place. I have absolutely no qualifications to write one. In fact, I barely have any qualifications at all, bar a few GCSEs, a tiny-titted handful of A-levels and some swimming badges from childhood. It would be simply preposterous for me to pretend that this is some kind of self-help book when, as the next 300 or so pages will show you, I have spent most of my life not being able to help myself when it comes to food and drugs and booze, and have only relatively recently even thought about a solid course of therapy or a gym membership.”
The autobiographical story is compelling and poignant, Bryony’s prose was easy to read and highly enjoyable. Her writing style suits every reader, and flows like a running train of thought. There were sections I found harder to read than others, only due to its intensity and triggering of empathy. However, thanks to her comedic writing style and the chapter structure the novel had plenty moments of relief following the more intense passages.
I would recommend this book to everyone – regardless of gender, age, or experiences with mental health. I think YA readers would be able to handle the issues depicted, with support from adults as there is explicit language and adult themes throughout the text. This is an important read for all, and a much needed contribution to the discussion around mental health. Being titled ‘Mad Girl’, I could relate to several moments in the text, such as Bryony’s coming of age, and her attempts to manage depression and romantic relationships. However, I would not label this text as being just ‘For Women’, I think the more people that read about depression the better, and all readers would enjoy this novel.
Bryony Gordon’s honest, humorous and moving narration of her experience with mental health issues throughout her life is the best novel I’ve read so far this year. The ending moved me to tears, I felt a mixture of happiness and sadness. I will definitely read this again, and have already lent the book to a friend.
Mad Girl: A happy life with a mixed-up mind (2016) – Bryony Gordon