Bibliophile | Meg Mason takes readers on a journey of ‘Sorrow and Bliss’

Sorrow and Bliss
by Meg Mason
Fourth Estate

Martha writes a funny food column for a magazine, but her editor keeps taking out her jokes, so it might just be a food column. Turning 40, she realises that she has lost touch with school, university and work friends simply because they all had children and there was nothing to talk about.

Martha is married to Patrick and they have always been in each other’s lives – “like a sofa that was in your house growing up … you can’t remember it not being there”. Martha had told Patrick before they married that she didn’t want to have children and he didn’t mind at the time.

The deeply moving novel is full of bleak humour, such as Martha remembering that at their wedding, the first thing the minister said when they were at the altar was “if anyone needs the toilets, they are through the vestry and to the right”.

Martha has always known there was something ‘wrong’ with her but she doesn’t know what it is. Sydney author Meg Mason specifically does not anchor Martha to any genuine mental illness but Martha is clearly not well. She remembers suffering from depression from her early twenties and taking numerous pills before she stopped seeing doctors.

Spending most of her adult life trying to become the opposite of herself and looking for that crucial missing piece of her, Martha sometimes finds herself in very dark places. “There isn’t any day or night. There isn’t time. Only pain, and the pressure and terror that is like a cord running down the centre of your body.”

Despite her struggles with living and finding joy in her life, Martha doesn’t actually want to die. Her daily struggles are tiring and draining but she believes that the “unnatural fact of living is something you must eventually fix”. Her journey from sorrow to bliss is one of accepting what life has dealt her and making the best of it … and she shares it with us so we can do the same.

Lezly Herbert

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