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Daily Archives: March 21, 2012

Review: Hystera by Leora Skolkin-Smith

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

This is a hard book for me to review, since my feelings about it are full of “almosts” and comparisons to other books.

I think it’s a better book than my feelings for it indicate, and I didn’t think it was at all a bad book. It just never quite clicked for me.

Summary via TLC Book Tours:

Set in the turbulent 1970s when Patty Hearst became Tanya the Revolutionary, Hystera is a timeless story of madness, yearning, and identity. After a fatal accident takes her father away, Lillian Weill blames herself for the family tragedy. Tripping through failed love affairs with men and doomed friendships, all Lilly wants is to be sheltered from reality. She retreats from the outside world into a world of delusion and the private terrors of a New York City Psychiatric Hospital. Unreachable behind her thick wall of fears, the world of hospital corridors and strangers become a vessel of faith. She is a foreigner there until her fellow patients release her from her isolation with the power of human intimacy. How do we know who we really are?  How do we find our true selves under the heavy burden of family and our pasts?  In an unpredictable portrait of mental illness, Hystera penetrates to the pulsing heart of the questions.

I think one of the strengths of Hystera was strong, beautiful, literary language. I don’t read for the language, I read for the story and the characters. The language put a barrier there for me. Some of this was probably deliberate, was a reflection of Lilly’s illness and an indication of the disconnect between her and her world.

I needed to either make an emotional connection with Lilly, to feel the pain of her illness, or I needed to get an intellectual engagement, to get an understanding of the path that led her to where she was and how she was going to get out.

I know this is possible from reading Last Night I Sang to the Monster (which was truly amazing), How I Made It to Eighteen: A Mostly True Story, and even Rowan the Strange, (which was a very different book).

And then we’re back to Hystera, which almost worked for me. I almost connected with Lilly. I almost understood her journey. I almost found her fellow patients interesting, in that I was interested while reading about each one, but when that page was done, I didn’t think of them again.

I wonder whether the time period was part of what got in my way as well, if I would have connected more with a modern setting, or one from when I was that age.

This was a different kind of mental illness than I’ve encountered, either in literature or in person. I can’t list the diagnosis, a sign of my lack of intellectual understanding of what was happening.

Still, it’s an important subject, and this might be the book that some readers connect with. If you appreciate well crafted language, you may well get much more from this book than I did.

I received this book for review via TLC Book Tours.  For other opinions of Hystera, visit the other tour stops:
TLC Book Tours

You can also check out Leora Skolkin-Smith’s Website and Facebook Page.

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2012 in books, reviews, tour

 

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