Sunday, September 30, 2007

I NEVER PROMISED YOU A ROSE GARDEN by Joanne Greenberg (Hannah Green)

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden is Joanne Greenberg's autobiographical novel about her schizophrenia. In it, Deborah, a 16-year-old girl, spends several years in a mental hospital overcoming her illness.

There is little doubt that the story is rooted in personal experience. There seems to be no other way to explain schizophrenia in such minute detail. Emphasis on certain details, particularly with Deborah's parents and Dr. Fried, clearly indicates to the reader that many aspects of the story have not been fictionalized.

There are some problems with the writing. At times, Deborah reads people, both doctors and patients, in impossible detail that is annoying rather than profound. Just when the reader has decided, "Wow, maybe Deborah should be a psychiatrist," we're immediately told how Deborah never knew why many people disliked her.

The dialogue is also problematic. Deborah certainly doesn't talk like the average 16-year-old, which is fine, but everybody else in the book is similarly refined and sophisticated. The dialogue is stilted. This, combined with the author's narrative style, causes the book to come across as pretentious from time to time.

I Never Promised You a Rose Garden starts out promisingly enough, but after its first third it becomes rather tedious. The reader may well skim and then skip page after page of internal rambling monologue and dialogue and interaction with other patients that does nothing to advance the story. Ultimately, the novel is boring.

A note: the book also comes across briefly as unfriendly toward both pacifists and Christianity.

Come for the personal insights into mental illness, stay for- well, there's really nothing else to stay for.