Sorrow and Bliss

Paperback edition released 28/04/2022

by Meg Mason

Modern and Contemporary Fiction Family Drama Humorous Fiction Literary Fiction Books of the Month Health & Fitness

LoveReading Expert Review of Sorrow and Bliss

On the shortlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2022, never has a book title more perfectly summed up the highs and lows of life.

It’s hard to believe it’s a debut as the challenging subject matter of depression is handled with such a deft touch. So dark, it’s pitch, pitch black. Yet so so sensitive. It’s a masterclass in ascerbic narration and perfectly pitches the dark and the light.

When we first meet Martha, she talks about her husband Patrick with such disdain, such boredom and he comments that Martha can supply anyone with an inventory of his flaws. But then everyone thinks he’s perfection, so sweet, so kind, living his life in the middle setting with Martha swinging between the extremes. So where does it all go wrong?

Narrated in the aftermath of their separation, Martha is forced to return to her childhood home to live with her dysfunctional, eccentric, bohemian parents this book is filled with laughs and tears.

At the heart of the novel is long term mental illness, the crushing depression with which Martha has battled since childhood, a depression which comes in waves for weeks or months at a time. However, it’s never named in the book; what is more important is Martha’s quest to know herself, to work out who is she is and why she never seems able to find contentment.

It’s hilarious. It’s brilliant. It’s a sharp observational and witty book of huge talent and I can’t wait to read more of what Meg Mason has to offer.

Deborah Maclaren

Sorrow and Bliss Synopsis


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.

About This Edition

ISBN: 9781474622998
Publication date: 28th April 2022
Author: Meg Mason
Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson an imprint of Orion Publishing Co
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 368 pages
Primary Genre Family Drama
Other Genres:
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Meg Mason Press Reviews

This richly spiced novel is a pleasure from the first page to the last... Its beautifully understated, airy style conceals the fiercest intelligence. I loved it so much that I stalked the author on social media - a first. Just read it. It's unforgettable. -- India Knight - SUNDAY TIMES CULTURE

The most wonderful, heartbreakingly gorgeous novel of the year. -- Elizabeth Day - THE MAIL ON SUNDAY, YOU MAGAZINE

It is impossible to read this novel and not be moved. It is also impossible not to laugh out loud... Mason pulls off something extraordinary in this huge-hearted novel, alchemising an unbearable anguish into something tender and hilarious and redemptive and wise, without ever undermining its gravity or diminishing its pain. -- Clare Clark - GUARDIAN

Inspired storytelling... a devastating and sharply funny love story... it is Martha's voice itself - her woeful deadpan narration always teetering between the comic, the tragic and the downright unlikable - that makes this novel sing. -- Julie Myerson - OBSERVER

Probably the best book you'll read this year... Brilliant, bleak, hilarious: the book of the summer. -- Natasha Poliszczuk - THE MAIL ON SUNDAY

Sorrow and Bliss, Meg Mason's first novel to be published in the UK, is as wonderful as everyone says it is. Blunt, tender, hilarious, and so very good on the trickiness of families, it is that rare perfect balance of fun (commercial) and difficult (literary), and exactly the book to read right now, when you need a laugh, but want to cry. -- Eva Wiseman - THE OBSERVER MAGAZINE

Summer's must-read novel... We can't recommend Sorrow And Bliss highly enough. -- Francesca Brown - STYLIST

A Fleabag-esque novel being raved about by Gillian Anderson and Ann Patchett... Expect this one to light up the WhatsApp chats. -- Louisa McGillicuddy - SUNDAY TIMES STYLE

You know that book that only comes along every so often, that seems to unite everyone who has read it in a sort of delirious fervour? Sorrow and Bliss is that book... It's utterly compelling and darkly funny: the book you have to read this summer. -- Jessie Thompson - EVENING STANDARD

Meg Mason has achieved something remarkable - Sorrow and Bliss is a raucously funny, beautifully written, emotionbashing book about love, family and life's curveballs that leaves you, satisfyingly, with what feels like wisdom forged in fire. -- Siobhan Murphy - THE TIMES

This is a story of mental illness reflected through the prism of an uproarious, big-hearted family comedy. It is fiercely intelligent and absolutely sublime. -- Anne Cunningham - IRISH INDEPENDENT

Rarely have the excoriating effects of mental illness been articulated quite so beautifully - as heartbreaking as it's funny, Sorrow And Bliss is one for the keeper shelves. -- Sarra Manning - RED MAGAZINE

Deeply moving but also darkly funny, Mason has created the sort of story that you savour the last pages of and long for once it's over. -- Olivia Ovenden - ESQUIRE

Completely brilliant, I loved it. I think every girl and woman should read it. - Gillian Anderson

Sorrow and Bliss is a brilliantly faceted and extremely funny book about depression that engulfed me in the way I'm always hoping to be to be engulfed by novels. While I was reading it, I was making a list of all the people I wanted to send it to, until I realized that I wanted to send it to everyone I know. - Ann Patchett

Sharp yet humane, and jaw-droppingly funny, this is the kind of novel you will want to press into the hands of everyone you know. Mason has an extraordinary talent for dialogue and character, and her understanding of how much poignancy a reader can take is profound. A masterclass on family, damage and the bonds of love: as soon as I finished it, I started again. - Jessie Burton

Sorrow and Bliss is a thing of beauty. Astute observations on marriage, motherhood, family, and mental illness are threaded through a story that is by turns devastating and restorative. Every sentence rings true. I will be telling everyone I love to read this book. - Sara Collins, author of THE CONFESSIONS OF FRANNIE LANGTON

A sharply observed, darkly hilarious and merciless portrait of a thoroughly messed-up family. Patrick Melrose meets Fleabag. Brilliant. - Clare Chambers, author of SMALL PLEASURES

Meg Mason writes about the slow bleed of life-long depression with candour, humour and stark precision. Sorrow and Bliss is about what happens when your illness pushes everyone away - leaving you with only the sorest parts of yourself for company. It will, as the title suggests, shatter your heart, before mending it with infinite love. I've never read anything like it and will be pressing it into the hands of every reader I know. - Pandora Sykes

Compulsively readable, Sorrow and Bliss is one of the funniest books I've read... Martha is such a brilliant, singular creation - as Patrick says, The idea that you might be ordinary is unbearable - that it is more interesting to imagine not the characters that have inspired her but the ones she will inspire. -- Francesca Steele - I NEWSPAPER

Sharp, stylish and revelatory, this novel is sure to be one of the big success stories of the year. -- Sarah Gilmartin - IRISH TIMES

Consistently funny and sharp and dark: it's wonderful. - Charlotte Mendelson, author of ALMOST ENGLISH

[A] razor-sharp exploration of mental health and identity. Hilarious and heartbreaking, this is best enjoyed over a large glass of rose on a sunny afternoon. - COSMOPOLITAN

The unforgettable novel you need to read this summer. - TIMES BOOKS NEWSLETTER

I've never read a novel about the impact of mental illness on the life of a woman, and those around her, like this. It is simply brilliant, and Martha's voice is a joy: hilarious, sharp and devastating. A must read. -- Alice O'Keefe - THE BOOKSELLER, Editor's Choice

Nina Stibbe meets Fleabag -- Charlotte Heathcote - DAILY EXPRESS

Blisteringly good... a novel that manages to be psychologically complex, yet still an utter joy to read. Sorrow and Bliss bristles with great one-liners and setpieces that are sometimes alarming, sometimes comic, but more often both. - READER'S DIGEST

Heartbreakingly sad and yet screamingly funny. -- Deirdre O'Brien - BEST

I very much enjoyed Meg Mason's witty, affecting Sorrow and Bliss. -- David Nicholls - GUARDIAN - Hot Summer Books feature

This is a beautiful depiction of a marriage, with all of its ugliness and joy. But its also a brilliant depiction of a whole family, wounded by a legacy of mental illness, and tender, witty, and loving, in spite of it, So funny, and so very, very sad. - Abigail Dean, bestselling author of GIRL A

An incredibly funny and devastating debut ... enlivened, often, by a madcap energy. Yet it still manages to be sensitive and heartfelt, and to offer a nuanced portrayal of what it means to try to make amends and change. - Guardian

With its finger on the modern pulse, Sorrow and Bliss blisters with its prose which manages to be both hilarious and heartbreaking in the same line. I kept having to stop to underline sentences. It reminded me of a cross between Fleabag and My Year of Rest and Relaxation, but really, Meg Mason has crafted a protagonist who feels completely her own person. Fresh and alive. - Jodie Chapman, author of ANOTHER LIFE

Sorrow and Bliss is a moving and poignant story about mental illness, family and love. It made me laugh and cry; a bittersweet read that will stay with you for a long time. - Libby Page, bestselling author of The Lido

I devoured this book, with all its humour and pain and cock-eyed hope. It's a funny and excruciating portrayal of mental illness, family dysfunction and love, all told through the point of view of a narrator who is in turn frustrating and endearing, but always fascinating. I adored it from the first page. - Julie Cohen, author of TOGETHER

Sorrow and Bliss is hilarious, haunting, and utterly captivating. Meg Mason has created a heroine as prickly as Bernadette in Where'd You Go, Bernadette. Her humor is as arch and wise as the best work of Joan Didion and Rachel Cusk, yet completely original. What a thrilling new voice! - Amanda Eyre Ward, New York Times bestselling author of THE JETSETTERS

Brutal, tender, funny, this novel - a portrait of love in all of its many incarnations - came alive for me from the very first page. I saw myself here. I saw the people I love. I am changed by this book. - Mary Beth Keane, New York Times bestselling author of ASK AGAIN, YES

So dark, so funny, so true. You will see your sad, struggling, triumphant self in this deeply affecting novel - Laura Zigman, author of SEPARATION ANXIETY

This is a romance, true, but a real one. It's modern love up against the confusing, sad aches of mental illness, with all its highs, lows, humour and misery. Comparisons to Sally Rooney will be made, but Mason's writing is less self-conscious than Rooney's, and perhaps more mature. Her character work is outstanding, and poignant-the hairline fractures, contradictions and nuances of the middle-class family dynamic are painstakingly rendered with moving familiarity and black humour, resulting in a combination as devastating and sharply witty as Phoebe Waller-Bridge's Fleabag. - Bookseller+Publisher

Exploring the multifaceted hardships of mental illness and the frustrating inaccuracy of diagnoses, medications, and treatments, Sorrow and Bliss is darkly comic and deeply heartfelt. Much like the narrator of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Martha's voice is acerbic, witty, and raw. Fans of Marian Keyes should put this on their to-read lists. - Booklist

Martha's anecdotes, simultaneously funny and sad, are stacked with observations that alternate between brutally cutting-especially when directed at her mother and at the patient and supportive Patrick-and aching, as when her oblique descriptions of her sister's growing family increasingly belie her true feelings about motherhood. Witty and stark, Martha's emotionally affecting story will delight fans of Sally Rooney. - Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

Martha Friel, the narrator of this improbably charming novel about mental illness, will have you chortling and reading lines aloud. - PEOPLE

Meg Mason has the ability to keep the reader alongside and sharing in the hope every step of the way. - WOMAN & HOME

A sharp-eyed look at the impact of mental illness that's heartbreaking but also bitterly funny. -- Jo Finney - GOOD HOUSEKEEPING

Deliciously dark and fantastically funny. - THE SUNDAY POST

Martha tells the sotry of the end of her marriage, her fiercely close relationship with her sister and her terrifying experiences of mental chaos in this brilliant, painful and unexpectedly comic novel. Narrated with insight and sensitivity by actor Emilia Fox, it looks set to become one of the hits of the year. -- Alex Clark - FINANCIAL TIMES, Audio Books review round up

A viciously funny novel about mental illness that combines acute social satire with warmth and insight. -- Claire Allfree - METRO

Without a doubt the book of the summer. By turns dryly funny and breathtakingly sad, it is a compulsive, exquisitely written look at mental illness and relationships. -- Gwendolyn Smith - I NEWSPAPER - #1 pick in summer reading roud up

Brilliant, bleak and hysterically funny. Tackling mental illness, families, sisterly love and failing marriages... it's universally being proclaimed The book of the summer . -- Suzannah Ramsdale - EVENING STANDARD

Meg Mason's debut novel is tender and dark as a bruise, coloured with complicated emotions but also wryly funny. And, as it takes a candid look at the way mental illness can derail a person, it also brims with hope as Martha looks to the future, determined to pick up the pieces of her broken life. -- Eithne Farry - SUNDAY EXPRESS S MAGAZINE

Unputdownable - one of the darkest, sharpest novels you will find this year. -- Nadine O'Regan - THE SUNDAY BUSINESS POST

This debut from Meg Mason is a brilliant, many-faceted diamond of a book. - SAINSBURY'S MAGAZINE

Martha Friel is one of those fictional characters that you can't get out of your head... The moment we'd finished this dazzling, spiky, darkly funny book, we wanted to read it all over again. -- Emma Lee-Potter - INDEPENDENT

The most recommended book of the summer, and with good reason. Meg Mason's novel about mental health, marriage and sisterhood is told in a singular voice of wry wit and blackly comic frankness. One of those 'read it in one sitting and tell all your friends' kind of books. -- Jessie Thompson - EVENING STANDARD, Best Fiction of 2021

It is a subtle and sensitive writer who can make you shout with laughter as she wrings your heart. Mason's characters are exquisitely drawn. Sorrow, yes, but also utter bliss. -- Rose Shepherd - SAGA

Must-read stuff: clever, sparkling and funny. - STRONG WORDS

This account of a life derailed by mental illness is both darkly funny and deeply touching... A brilliantly faceted and funny book that will engulf you. - BEST MONTHLY

It made me laugh and cry. I loved it so much - I need to read it again. - Emilia Clarke

The summer of 2021's most (justifiably) hyped novel... is a beautifully paced, darkly funny, heart-thuddingly moving portrait of family, marriage and chronic illness. Its pithy protagonist-narrator, Martha, is a memorable creation. -- Patricia Nicol - THE SUNDAY TIMES, Best Fiction of the Year

Simply unforgettable. -- Francesca Steele - I NEWSPAPER, Best Books of 2021

The summer's word-of-mouth hit was Meg Mason's Sorrow and Bliss (W&N), a wisecracking black comedy of mental anguish and eccentric family life focused on a woman who should have everything to live for. -- Justine Jordan - GUARDIAN, Best Books of 2021

Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason is a knockout. An unnamed mental health illness and a struggling marriage are both rendered by Mason with devastating honesty and laugh-out-loud wit. -- Louise O'Neill - IRISH EXAMINER

Other editions of this book

ISBN: 9781474622998
Publication date: 28/04/2022
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9781474622974
Publication date: 10/06/2021
Format: Hardback

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