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Perhaps particularly this winter, people who seem to have it all, and yet find themselves waking up okay one morning and unhappy the next, will identify with the story of Martha, child of eccentric artist parents, the sister to a supportive but take no prisoners mother of too many, and wife of martyr, auditioning for a doormat, Patrick. You won't always like Martha much, at least in the beginning, but you will recognize her. As someone who has read a lot of memoirs about mental illness, I was, however, somewhat distracted by trying to decipher: what is wrong with Martha? I'm not going to reveal that plot twist, but I can tell you that I had no trouble enjoying every turn of this first novel. Reading it will definitely provide some short term relief from a case of the pandemic blues.— From Carla's Picks
"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
"Brutal, tender, funny. . . . 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
A compulsively readable debut novel—spiky, sharp, intriguingly dark, and tender—about a woman on the edge that combines the psychological insight of Sally Rooney with the sharp humor of Nina Stibbe and the emotional resonance of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine.
Martha Friel just turned forty. Once, she worked at Vogue and planned to write a novel. Now, she creates internet content. She used to live in a pied-à-terre in Paris. Now she lives in a gated community in Oxford, the only person she knows without a PhD, a baby or both, in a house she hates but cannot bear to leave. But she must leave, now that her husband Patrick—the kind who cooks, throws her birthday parties, who loves her and has only ever wanted her to be happy—has just moved out.
Because there’s something wrong with Martha, and has been for a long time. When she was seventeen, a little bomb went off in her brain and she was never the same. But countless doctors, endless therapy, every kind of drug later, she still doesn’t know what’s wrong, why she spends days unable to get out of bed or alienates both strangers and her loved ones with casually cruel remarks.
And she has nowhere to go except her childhood home: a bohemian (dilapidated) townhouse in a romantic (rundown) part of London—to live with her mother, a minorly important sculptor (and major drinker) and her father, a famous poet (though unpublished) and try to survive without the devoted, potty-mouthed sister who made all the chaos bearable back then, and is now too busy or too fed up to deal with her.
But maybe, by starting over, Martha will get to write a better ending for herself—and she’ll find out that she’s not quite finished after all.
Born in New Zealand, MEG MASON began her career at the Financial Times in London before switching to The Times to write on lifestyle, parenting and humour. After relocating to Australia, she continued to write for a range of publications that include the Sydney Morning Herald, Cosmopolitan and GQ. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Sydney.