Monday, 17 November 2014

The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls by Emilie Autumn (4/5)

First published: 2010
Page count: 274

The back says: Presenting Emilie Autumn's long awaited autobiographical, reality-bending thriller, "The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls." This beautifully bound hardcover volume measures 8" x 11.5" and clocks in at a massive 274 fully illustrated pages. Positively packed with hand-written memoirs, photos, and paintings, this profoundly empowering epic not only deserves a place on your tea table, it is also one of the most complete accounts of bipolar disorder ever penned, and will take readers behind the doors of both modern day psych ward and Victorian insane asylum in this true life horror tale of madness, murder, and medical experimentation.

But reader beware: It's much easier to get into the Asylum than it is to get out.

I say: If I had read this in my teens it would have ruined me completely.

In the best of ways, of course.

However, being an adult I could recognise some parts of Autumn’s tale that seemed like fabrications artistic licence for the sake of the story – it is classified as an autobiography. One of these were the fact that she says that the carers in the asylum allowed her to keep her socks even though she very easily could have hung herself with them. This could be true for all I know, but it seems improbable. I am not going to go into what the other little things I questioned were, but that is the main reason this didn’t get a full 5/5.

So there.

What we have is the story of Emilie admitting herself to an asylum on her doctor’s recommendation after a failed suicide attempt. While there is isn’t allowed to check herself out – as she had been promised – and is put in the same ward as those with serious mental illnesses. While in the asylum she receives letters in her notebook from Emily who is admitted into an insane asylum in Victorian England. The narrative weaves between the two characters and also includes illustrations by and pictures of Emilie.

I found both stories intriguing, although I was more engrossed in Emily’s tale, which seemed more fleshed out. Admittedly there doesn’t appear to be very much to do in a mental ward, but the prose and flow of events made more sense in Emily’s parts – which seems like a strange thing to say since [spoiler: highlight to read] Emily is just the alter ego of Emilie, but there you have it. Also, the monstrous hardships Emily had to endure were so vividly described I just had to root for her.

Having said that, Emilie also had to go through some serious things that I do not want to look lightly upon (regardless of me believing all of it or not).

The book itself looks amazing and although I was enthralled by it, I found no interest in Autumn’s music or the future theatrical musical production of the book.

No offence meant, it’s just not for me.

So yeah, 4/5 due to reasons explained and the instances of magical realism which I didn’t particularly care for.

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