A Revolution of the Mind
By the first paragraph of this book, I was blown away. Wow, I thought, an author who can speak to my exact brand of mental illness. By the one-hundredth page, I wondered where that former excitement had gone, as reading had now become a slog. Shortly after that, I realized it was ironic, and possibly that it worked well for the book. After all, in my own depressive phases, and sometimes my anxious ones, life itself is a slog. For a book to truly capture that experience, it can’t be a rip-roaring page-turner or even a book that can be called inspirational.
I sat down to write this review with no idea of what to rate the book. I could give it one star, for being a slog, but is that just because I don’t necessarily need to read about someone in a mental health crisis with my own seasonal depression creeping steadily closer? I could give it five stars, for being a complex and powerful work, but since it didn’t reach the high bar I try to reserve five stars for, should I give it that on an intellectual recognition alone? Maybe I ought to split the difference, give it three stars, and write a wishy-washy review.
In the end, I decided the book’s merits were stronger than its flaws, and that while its not speaking to me should be reflected, it would surely speak to many people I know. In fact, as I read it, I felt like I was hearing the voices of some people I went to college with. It was not always a pleasant experience, but it was a powerful one.
As a novel, A Revolution of the Mind hits hard, showing an unromanticized view of mental illness. It didn’t always hit home, and at times I felt the protagonist’s reaction to everything was too intellectual, more caught up in how she felt about and could filter her realities than her realities themselves. The book also fell into a common trap I see in modern literary fiction: dropping references (this time to bands and various intellectual figures and theories) which will resonate with only a narrow subset of who the ideal audience could be.
As a series of manifestos on mental illness in the modern era, it… is nearly five hundred pages long. (And, as I said, sometimes a slog.) I do think it works better if viewed through both lenses rather than choosing one or the other. Both can be wearying, but both are also desperately necessary.
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