Read With Us Selection
Summer 2022

Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason

book cover sorrow and bliss by meg mason

Brief Synopsis

(from The Women’s Prize for Fiction)

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. A gift, her mother once said, not everybody gets.

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.

Information About the Author

Meg Mason began her career in the UK at the Financial Times and The Times. Her work has since appeared in The Sunday Times, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Sunday Telegraph. She has written humour for The New Yorker and Sunday STYLE, monthly columns for GQ and InsideOut and is a regular contributor to Vogue, Stellar,marie claire, and ELLE.

Her first book Say It Again in a Nice Voice (HarperCollins), a memoir of early motherhood, was published in 2012. Her novel You Be Mother (HarperCollins) followed in 2017. She lives in Sydney.

Meg Mason’s website, which includes her fascinating and inspirational bulletin board.

Book Reviews

From The Guardian

From Judith McKinnon (writer, review, blogger)

Author Interview

Yarra Valley Writers Festival: Meg Mason, Sorrow and Bliss (YouTube link)

Join Us For the Book Discussion on Zoom

Tuesday, September 13, 2022, 7:00 pm Eastern time
Questions will also be posted on our blogs: Highly Reasonable, Carole Knits, Dancing At the Edge

“Everything is broken and messed up and completely fine. That is what life is. It’s only the ratios that change. Usually on their own. As soon as you think that’s it, it’s going to be like this forever, they change again.” — Meg Mason, Sorrow and Bliss

Book Discussion Questions Posted September 13, 2022

From Bonny:

What did you think of the use of the — in Sorrow and Bliss? Did not naming Martha’s mental illness push you to think about the use of labels regarding mental illness? Although Martha finally does receive a diagnosis, the name of her condition isn’t revealed in the text. Why do you think the author chose to present it with a dash (or X if you listened to the audiobook)? How did it impact your experience as a reader? If we have an identified illness does that excuse our behavior? Can we simply decide to change?

From Carole:

I want to know what you think of the characters in this book, in particular Martha, but also Patrick and Martha’s extended family . . . Aunt Winsome, her mother Celia and father Fergus, and her sister Ingrid. Do you like them or dislike them? Do they feel like real people or stereotypes? Would you want to hang out with them? Do you see them as being supportive of one another?

From Kym:

First . . . I’d really like to know what you thought of the book. Did you like it? What did you like best (or least!) about the book?

Second . . . As I read Sorrow and Bliss, I really enjoyed the relationships author Meg Mason created between (often-unlikeable) Martha and the people who loved her: Patrick, Ingrid, her father, and Peregrine, for example. The relationships seemed very genuine and relatable to me, and I think this may have been because Mason chose to frame the relationships through ordinary conversations while the characters were performing everyday actions (driving somewhere, for example, or eating dinner together; sharing a bottle of wine, taking a walk). What do you think? Did these relationships seem genuine to you? Why or why not?

Third . . . Would you describe Sorrow and Bliss as having a “happy ending?” Whether you did or didn’t, were you satisfied with the way it ended?