Thursday, March 15, 2012

Book Review: Hystera by Leora Skolkin-Smith

Oh my, Reader Friends.  Coming up with a review for this one has been quite difficult.  It took me two weeks to actually read the book (my apologies to the author and to Trish at TLC for my being late with the review).  Our main character is Lilly, who is being admitted to a mental hospital as the book opens.  She is suffering from delusions after a tragic accident involving her father and a souring relationship with a married man.  The book is set in the 1970's and the abduction of Patty Hearst plays a role in Lilly's delusions.

I was honestly just not a fan of the writing.  It was SO flowery and SO effusive and SO trying to be literary that it made no sense to me at times.  I read parts aloud to Luke hoping it would be more clear to him, but he was as baffled as I was.  The narrator at one point hears the rain coming down outside her window and compares it to the sound a babying peeing into a soft blanket.  Uh, what?  I don't have much of a frame of reference for the sound of babies peeing into soft (or rough or any other kind) blankets, but what a weird mental image.  And that wasn't the weirdest.  I mean I get not wanting to use cliches or trite similes, but in her attempts to find new ways of describing common experiences, the author just went a little overboard.

Entertainment Value
This is typically my kind of story.  I like stories about people who have mental illness and I like mental hospitals and rehab facilities as a setting for stories.  I think mental illness is fascinating (psych minor in college - woohoo!).  So, the book intrigued me on that level.  Unfortunately, I was bored with the actual book.  The idea was interesting but we were so deep in Lilly's delusions that a lot of the book just didn't make sense.  The parts that did make sense weren't all that interesting.  Lilly does whole a lot of sitting around and talking about really mundane topics with other patients in ways that don't really advance the story or make any difference.  Also, the sexual aspects of her mental illness were also very prominent.  Another reviewer on Goodreads used the word "subtle" and I was shocked.  To me, it was anything but subtle.  It was SO in your face Freudian that it was tiresom.  Lilly's main delusion revolves around a "bulb" that she imagines between her legs.  To overcome her fear of intimacy she must learn to control her dream orgasms (and now I will have a million hits from people searching for "bulb porn").  It was just bizarre and overt sexualization of EVERYTHING EVER in a very literally Freudian way.  Penis envy, Electra Complex, etc, etc, etc.

I cannot recommend it.  I just can't.  It took me two weeks to read it and it's under 200 pages.  It's a book that made me actively try not to find time to read.  There are some very good reviews of the book on Goodreads, and I'd suggest you check them out if the idea of the book intrigues you, but this one just was not for me.  Also, in fairness, I feel compelled to tell you that I am (so far) the only reviewer on the tour who hasn't raved about the book, so please take a look at those reviews as well for a balanced opinion. 

Thanks to Trish at TLC for sending me the book to review and click here to see the rest of the tour hosts.


  1. I have heard a baby peeing on a blanket (of different textures actually) and I would not want to conjure that image to describe rain. Nope.

  2. Darn, I'm sorry this book didn't turn out to be a good fit for you. Hopefully your next read will be a better fit. Thanks for being on the tour.

  3. The things you say you didn't like would bother me as well so I'm glad to hear your honest opinion! I know it's difficult coming up with new ways to say things but on the other hand sometimes more traditional is the way to go.