Magazine article New Internationalist

[The Fat Lady Sings]

Magazine article New Internationalist

[The Fat Lady Sings]

Article excerpt

by Jacqueline Roy

(The Women's Press, ISBN 0 7043 4647 8)

Jacqueline Roy's fine novel is set on a psychiatric ward and tells the stories of Gloria and Merle, two women of Jamaican descent who are admitted to the unit. Both women have been tipped into mental illness by tragedy. Gloria is grieving for her dead partner Josie and her illness takes the form of wild, unpredictable acts and bursts of loud public singing. Following a miscarriage, Merle starts to hear voices in her head. She also hides a secret about her strict religious father.

Through direct narrative, notebook entries and taped diaries we gradually build up a picture of these two women and how they have come to be incarcerated and on mind-altering medication. Jacqueline Roy's approach to the realities of mental illness is sensitive and unsentimental. She is particularly good at catching the small increments by which mental instability grows out of 'normal' behaviour and her picture of patient-staff communications, based on mistrust and contempt, is depressingly accurate. …

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