Title: Sorrow and Bliss
Author: Meg Mason
Published: September 2nd 2020
Publisher: 4th Estate – AU
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 4 stars
Spiky, sharp, intriguingly dark and tender, full of pathos, fury and wit, Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason is a dazzling, distinctive novel from a boldly talented writer. For fans of Sally Rooney, Taffy Brodesser-Akner and Fleabag.
‘A triumph. A brutal, hilarious, compassionate triumph.’ Alison Bell, The Letdown
”I just adored this book. It’s timely and dark and poignant and funny. It was filled with such eviscerating compassion and rage; I couldn’t get enough of it. I inhaled it in a single weekend, unable to put it down. Meg Mason is a searing talent.’ Kate Leaver, The Friendship Cure
This novel is about a woman called Martha. She knows there is something wrong with her but she doesn’t know what it is. Her husband Patrick thinks she is fine. He says everyone has something, the thing is just to keep going.
Martha told Patrick before they got married that she didn’t want to have children. He said he didn’t mind either way because he has loved her since he was fourteen and making her happy is all that matters, although he does not seem able to do it.
By the time Martha finds out what is wrong, it doesn’t really matter anymore. It is too late to get the only thing she has ever wanted. Or maybe it will turn out that you can stop loving someone and start again from nothing – if you can find something else to want.
The book is set in London and Oxford. It is sad and funny.
Sorrow and Bliss is a novel that claims to be both sad and funny and it immediately caught my attention. I was highly intrigued by journalist Meg Mason’s latest novel, especially as it came with a five star recommendation from a close friend. Sorrow and Bliss offers a topical and thought provoking journey around areas of life, love, family relations, marriage and the sense of self. Sorrow and Bliss is a nominal read that I valued.
Meet Martha. This troubled woman knows there is something wrong with her, but she cannot put her finger on what the central issue is. However, Martha’s husband Patrick denies there is something wrong with her and he urges Martha to carry on with her life as it stands. Martha has made it clear to Patrick that even though they have a happy and fulfilling marriage, she does not wish to enter parenthood. Patrick has happily accepted this, as his love for Martha runs deep. But troubled waters, a crisis and confusion sets it, causing distress to Martha and those surrounding her. Sorrow and Bliss is an examination of life, our choices, hopes, dreams and misgivings.
Following on from her first book, a memoir of motherhood and her 2017 novel, You Be Mother, Meg Mason has released her latest fiction set piece. Sorrow and Bliss offers a rich tapestry of emotional content. Expect some tears, laughter, joy and understanding. Throughout this novel’s journey we view different situations and trying times involving love, family relationships, marriage, domestic relations and self-worth. Told with a mixture of wit and insight, Meg Mason’s novel is an in tune contemporary title.
Martha is our guide for the duration of Sorrow and Bliss. The book’s narration is relayed from Martha’s engrossing viewpoint. This central perspective travels from Martha’s early days, to keynote relationship points, through to the here and now of Martha’s life as it stands. This is where I had some difficulty with the novel. I found Martha to be very prickly and complicated. I also became quite obsessed with trying to diagnose her! On the whole I didn’t take to Martha, but I was impressed with Mason’s consistent characterisation of this complex figure. Mason also extends her solid characterisation skills to protagonists such as Martha’s husband Patrick, who is as clear as day on the pages of this book. Overall, Sorrow and Bliss is a well written and symbolic composition.
Although Sorrow and Bliss offered a very meaningful journey, I am not entirely convinced I clicked with it. Internally conflicted would be an apt description of my response to Meg Mason’s novel. I think I was struck by the moments of semblance, shock, melancholy, acceptance, empathy and the overall general reflection this story offered on humanity. Despite the dark moments, they are little rays of sunshine in the form of humour and hope. I grasped onto these promising moments where I could.
All in all Sorrow and Bliss presents a candid and unvarnished look at the suffering and struggles we attach mental health, relationships and domestic life. Stark, bold and confronting, Meg Mason’s novel will be sure to reach into the hearts of many readers.
Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason was published on 2nd September 2020 by 4th Estate – AU. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of Sorrow and Bliss, Meg Mason, visit here.
*Thanks extended to Harper Collins Books Australia for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.
Sorrow and Bliss is book #97 of the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge