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Literary fiction, classics, dystopian, history, memoir, prize winners, and of course the 1001 books. You really might catch me reading anything!

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Empire of Cotton: A Global History
Sven Beckert
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Faces in the Water

Faces in the Water - Janet Frame

Istina Mavet, the narrator, is a young woman living in first one, then another, then the first again, mental hospitals in New Zealand. She narrates over about 9 years.

I struggled with the first few chapters, as I could not see where this book was going. But where could it go? Once I let myself look at it as a novelized memoir instead of a novel story I began to enjoy it. The narrator is classically unreliable. We don't know why she is in the hospital, and we don't know why she is transferred (twice). We don't know why she is sent back after a brief time at home. We don't know her diagnosis, we don't know what she does when "naughty". But the reader feels for her—her own confusion about what she has done wrong and why she has to stay, why she is moved from ward to ward (leaving the reader confused too), why anyone is there (other than the woman who murdered her baby decades earlier—she would most likely be there for postpartum psychosis, still), her anxiety and fear caused by EST and the threat of another treatment. The electroshock treatments seem to make her worse—at least in her mind, she seems to become more paranoid, anxious, and scared.

A very interesting book. Frame spent some time in NZ mental hospital(s), so had a unique perspective when writing this book. Which makes me curious how much is autobiographical (the fear of EST? the confusion of why she is there?), how much of this actually happened to her, and how much is truly fictional.