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Summary

The instant Sunday Times best seller.

Shortlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2022.

Everyone tells Martha Friel she is clever and beautiful, a brilliant writer who has been loved every day of her adult life by one man, her husband Patrick.

So why is everything broken? Why is Martha - on the edge of 40 - friendless, practically jobless and so often sad? And why did Patrick decide to leave?

Maybe she is just too sensitive, someone who finds it harder to be alive than most people. Or maybe - as she has long believed - there is something wrong with her. Something that broke when a little bomb went off in her brain, at 17, and left her changed in a way that no doctor or therapist has ever been able to explain.

Forced to return to her childhood home to live with her dysfunctional, bohemian parents (but without the help of her devoted, foul-mouthed sister Ingrid), Martha has one last chance to find out whether a life is ever too broken to fix - or whether, maybe, by starting over, she will get to write a better ending for herself. 

©2021 Meg Mason (P)2021 Orion Publishing Group

Critic reviews

"A brilliantly faceted and extremely funny book that engulfed me in the way I am always hoping to be engulfed by novels. I was making a list of all the people I wanted to send it to, until I realised that I wanted to send it to everyone I know." (Ann Patchett, author of The Dutch House)

"A devastating and sharply funny love story." (Observer)

"Both fantastically dark and almost unbearably funny.... Just read it. It's unforgettable." (India Knight, The Sunday Times)

What listeners say about Sorrow and Bliss

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

depressing and pointless

As a person who suffers with their mental health this was torturous to listen to.
The story itself is very bland, the reader so depressing to listen to and the resolution.. frustrating.
it was at points like listening to what goes on in my head sometimes and I though ah, this may help but no it's a hamster wheel of doom and gloom with no peeks of hope. Relentless low mood inducing text.
I listened in the hope there may be a change or an epiphany but no.
There were I think two or three moments where i chuckled but the rest of the book is horrendously depressing.
If you're low anyway i recommend staying away.

27 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Not sure why this is described as funny

This is a decent story but I'm not sure why the reviews say this is a laugh out loud. It's deep and in some places dark, and the main character battles with mental struggles and a less from ideal family situation. Maybe I didn't get the joke, but I found it quite a hard listen. Not the light hearted fiction I was led to believe it was!

21 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

One of the best novels I've ever listened to

A compelling story of a mental illness killing a marriage, in which the brilliant characters draw you in and keep you going through the vortex of physical and cerebral destruction. I recommend this to people who are looking for clever writing, enjoy a story that has eccentric family members (à la Pursuit of Love), and, in the end, love a love story (despite the cyclonic mental illness).

The author has come up with a really well thought out structure that very cleverly seems like it just all fell into place. The 'book within a book' is a wonderful idea... Rather ingeniously (and Pirandello-ishly), Mason even dares to let one of her characters, Patrick, read almost the entire novel -- even a piece out loud, about something he says near the beginning of the novel, to question whether he had actually said it (you'll understand once it happens).

The text is packed with a glittering array of witty observations of the world we inhabit and human behaviour, and there are many truly funny lines. It's a real pleasure to listen to, which is a strange thing to be able to say since we are also witness to how annihilating clinical depression or a personality disorder (the unnamed illness) can be.

Something I especially appreciated about this book is the author’s humanity — which shines through the protagonist Martha’s bleak view of the world. She may think she's The Best, but she is ashamed of thinking it too, and actually filled with both guilt and humility. She can be so cruel and then so deeply sorry -- but then this is the tragedy of this mental illness.

The overriding theme of parental love, however, is what gives this story its universality -- 'bobbing up' again and again, in ingenious ways sometimes.... For example in scenes from Patrick's motherless childhood -- which are simply heartbreaking. The way Martha is protected and nourished by her father is also extremely moving. Ultimately it is Martha's hopeless anti-maternal mother who picks her up and helps her with the 'baby steps' towards a routine and approaching-normal life.

I’m looking forward to Mason’s next novel — but, because I already miss the characters in this one, I’d love another one filled with them please (I’m a big fan of Ingrid and Fergus and Winsome). Can Mason write a 'sequel' to this, or is there no point? There'll be others like me who wish she could Durrell-ise the extended family. But then I suppose I need to recognise that the story is not really focused on the eccentric extended family.

Finally, Emilia Fox is, as ever, perfect — by far my favourite narrator -- THANK GOD SHE WAS GIVEN THIS BOOK!

PS I fell in love with Patrick..... I hope my daughter finds someone like him one day!

19 people found this helpful

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Emilia Fox is superb

Emilia Fox brought this beautiful book alive. She had an excellent way of bringing a real depth to the characters. Loved it.

11 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

So overrated

I listened to this after reading fantastic reviews and the excitement about this being The important book of the summer. Hmmm, I keep wondering how these reviews come about, is it just an advertising machine marketing aggressively? It was mostly irritating to listen to, 2 stars instead of one because it wasn't bad enough for me to give up half way through. Excellently read by Emilia Fox.

It takes the story 9 hours to get to the point that a listener with some life experience realises after 15 minutes; that the protagonist should be grateful for her many blessings. That, however, suddenly everything and everyone falls into place, beliefs and behaviours are changed, is so unbelievable. A modern happy ever after. Kitschy and unrealistic.

I wonder who this story is aimed at? The fact that having a label can help and also that labels lead to self limiting beliefs is well known. Nothing new here.

Also, there was nothing laugh out loud funny in this book as had been promised. Some mildly funny moments which I'm sure make the author feel very pleased with her cleverness.

9 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Unique and insightful storyline

I enjoyed the story line of this book. The main character is crafted so you struggle to warm to her but this is just the symptom of her inner battle. It is a real journey of a book, as you witness the ups and downs with her mental health issues. The thing prevented 4 stars was the writing. The repetitive, then he said, then I said, then she said, started to grate on me! It felt like something was lacking

7 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Beautiful, funny and sad - loved it.

This book is so bloody funny. Loved the family roles and relationships. Cried, laughed out loud and couldn’t put it down.
Beautiful descriptions of ordinary everyday things add to the story and the plot is quite unexpected.
Highly recommend but have a tissue at the ready :-)

5 people found this helpful

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Depressing

I must have been reading a different book to all those who said it was ‘funny’. When? Very depressing and totally dysfunctional family that I didn’t want to read about. Gave up on it

4 people found this helpful

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couldn't stop listening

lovely book ,pulls you in and makes you laugh and cry, feel like I really know the characters which is what I want from a good book

4 people found this helpful

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Beautifully narrated

Beautifully narrated by Emilia Fox, unsurprisingly. The story was heartbreaking at times but I couldn’t stop listening! So well written.

2 people found this helpful