This book is a fictionalized autobiography (along the same lines as The Bell Jar) of Greenberg’s years in a mental hospital as a teen. Greenberg’s character is called Deborah Blau, and is diagnosed with schizophrenia. In those days (late 50s), that diagnosis was vague at best, and treatments – like being wrapped and restrained in a wet-sheet ice pack for hours at a time – weren’t exactly all that helpful by modern standards. Deborah lives in a fantasy world called Yr and struggles to come to terms with reality over the course of three years in the hospital.
Unlike The Bell Jar, I couldn’t relate to this book or to Deborah as a character. I didn’t feel like she was really schizophrenic (according to online sources, modern doctors reading this book also don’t feel she was schizophrenic). I didn’t understand or feel her illness or pain. That made the book a little dull and difficult to read. Now maybe my lack of connection was due to the fact that I’ve never been schizophrenic, or whatever her illness was. I’m not saying her pain and illness weren’t real. I personally just couldn’t relate to it. I can relate to Esther in The Bell Jar because I’ve experienced the same sorts of things Plath had. Maybe I wouldn’t relate if I wasn’t bipolar. I can’t say for sure. But one way or another, this book didn’t live up to my expectations.
On the bright side, Greenberg did better with her life after hospitalization than Plath did. She’s still alive, and I know she was a college professor for a long time. No head-in-the-oven suicide. So that’s good. She conquered her demons. All the same, I much preferred The Bell Jar.