I Never Promised You a Rose Garden

by Joanne Greenberg

I read this book at least twice when I was a teen. It\’s been decades. I was curious how similar it might be to Challenger Deep, and yes, it was a very interesting comparison. Both are about a teenager suffering from schizophrenia. Both kids experience a complex, detailed inner world where other personae speak to them. I thought it was also telling that in each case, there was an aspect of the inner world where the sufferer felt they were descending into a great depth- in Challenger Deep, it was the depths of the ocean. In Rose Garden, it was a bottomless pit of hell.

But there the similarities end. This young woman- Deoborah- is sent by her family to a mental hospital where she receives therapy and lives on a ward with other patients. Use of medication is crude and rudimentary- it seems to be limited to sedatives. I have to make myself remember that the book is placed squarely in its time- it was written in the sixties, and the story takes place during the forties. So please note if you read it that people worked with the knowledge they had, at the time. In the book, a lot of emphasis is placed on the importance of therapy- Deobrah\’s therapist spends hours digging through her memories to sift out the cause of her withdrawl from the world, the reason the people in her head censor her actions and punish her, the traumas she may have suffered when very young that marred her psyche. I don\’t think it quite works like that? As far as I can understand, medication treats the condition and therapy helps, but the cause is not a childhood trauma as this story implies.

Regardless, it\’s very well-written and the characters are vivid- not just Deborah, but the other patients she interacts with, the staff at the hospital, her fierce and compassionate therapist. As a younger reader, I was fascinated with and baffled by the demanding, inscrutable \’gods\’ that peopled Deborah\’s inner world- now I found them more easy to see through. I still enjoyed the wordplay, the codes the patients had of communicating unspeakable things, the often-beautiful way Deborah spoke in metaphors (she also had a made-up language for her inner world). I noticed on this read how much more this book delves into what the family went through at home- what to tell relatives, how to deal with their own guilt and worry. It even has a few chapters from the therapist\’s point of view (personal life as well as her work).

And I appreciated that, just like in the more modern book I read, the main character realizes at the end that while there is no permanent cure for their condition, there can be a great alleviation of suffering, and the capability of leading a productive life. Deobrah\’s story felt a bit rushed at the end- while it did address the very different struggles she had to integrate back into the regular world when her stay at the hospital was over, it went through that without much depth, compared to all the pages spent on therapy sessions and conversations with fellow patients.

Still, a good read, if you keep in mind how long ago it was written. At first, the frequency of the author telling stuff irritated me, but I got used to it as a style of the writing and was okay with it later on (something I often can\’t tolerate in more modern books). The voice overall does feel surprisingly relevant and current, in spite of its timeframe.

Note: the edition I read was published under the pen name Hannah Green. The story was based on the author\’s personal experiences (I don\’t know to what degree things had been fictionalized).

Rating: 3/5              318 pages, 1964

3 Responses

  1. Bermudaonion- Yes, I think that aspect of it does give a ring of authenticity. Some parts are very distressing to read- particularly when the main character hurts herself, lacking sensation of feelings…Literary Feline- I first read it as a teen, also, it was quite different to revisit it as an adult. I certainly think it's worth the re-read.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

DISCLAIMER:

All books reviewed on this site are owned by me, or borrowed from the public library. Exceptions are a very occasional review copy sent to me by a publisher or author, as noted. Receiving a book does not influence my opinion or evaluation of it

SUBSCRIBE VIA EMAIL:

Subscribe to my blog:

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

VIEW MY PERSONAL COLLECTION:

TRADE BOOKS WITH ME ON:

ARCHIVES: 

2022
January 2022 (12)February 2022 (7)March 2022 (13)April 2022 (16)May 2022 (13)June 2022 (21)July 2022 (15)August 2022 (27)September 2022 (10)
2021
January 2021 (14)February 2021 (13)March 2021 (14)April 2021 (7)May 2021 (10)June 2021 (5)July 2021 (10)August 2021 (27)September 2021 (16)October 2021 (11)November 2021 (14)December 2021 (12)
2020
January 2020 (14)February 2020 (6)March 2020 (10)April 2020 (1)May 2020 (10)June 2020 (15)July 2020 (13)August 2020 (26)September 2020 (10)October 2020 (9)November 2020 (16)December 2020 (22)
2019
January 2019 (12)February 2019 (9)March 2019 (5)April 2019 (10)May 2019 (9)June 2019 (6)July 2019 (18)August 2019 (13)September 2019 (13)October 2019 (7)November 2019 (5)December 2019 (18)
2018
January 2018 (17)February 2018 (18)March 2018 (9)April 2018 (9)May 2018 (6)June 2018 (21)July 2018 (12)August 2018 (7)September 2018 (13)October 2018 (15)November 2018 (10)December 2018 (13)
2017
January 2017 (19)February 2017 (12)March 2017 (7)April 2017 (4)May 2017 (5)June 2017 (8)July 2017 (13)August 2017 (17)September 2017 (12)October 2017 (15)November 2017 (14)December 2017 (11)
2016
January 2016 (5)February 2016 (14)March 2016 (5)April 2016 (6)May 2016 (14)June 2016 (12)July 2016 (11)August 2016 (11)September 2016 (11)October 2016 (9)November 2016 (1)December 2016 (3)
2015
January 2015 (9)February 2015 (9)March 2015 (11)April 2015 (10)May 2015 (10)June 2015 (2)July 2015 (12)August 2015 (13)September 2015 (16)October 2015 (13)November 2015 (10)December 2015 (14)
2014
January 2014 (14)February 2014 (11)March 2014 (5)April 2014 (15)May 2014 (12)June 2014 (17)July 2014 (22)August 2014 (19)September 2014 (10)October 2014 (19)November 2014 (14)December 2014 (14)
2013
January 2013 (25)February 2013 (28)March 2013 (18)April 2013 (21)May 2013 (12)June 2013 (7)July 2013 (13)August 2013 (25)September 2013 (24)October 2013 (17)November 2013 (18)December 2013 (20)
2012
January 2012 (21)February 2012 (19)March 2012 (9)April 2012 (23)May 2012 (31)June 2012 (21)July 2012 (19)August 2012 (16)September 2012 (4)October 2012 (2)November 2012 (7)December 2012 (19)
2011
January 2011 (26)February 2011 (22)March 2011 (18)April 2011 (11)May 2011 (6)June 2011 (7)July 2011 (10)August 2011 (9)September 2011 (14)October 2011 (13)November 2011 (15)December 2011 (22)
2010
January 2010 (27)February 2010 (19)March 2010 (20)April 2010 (24)May 2010 (22)June 2010 (24)July 2010 (31)August 2010 (17)September 2010 (18)October 2010 (11)November 2010 (13)December 2010 (19)
2009
January 2009 (23)February 2009 (26)March 2009 (32)April 2009 (22)May 2009 (18)June 2009 (26)July 2009 (34)August 2009 (31)September 2009 (30)October 2009 (23)November 2009 (26)December 2009 (18)
2008
January 2008 (35)February 2008 (26)March 2008 (33)April 2008 (15)May 2008 (29)June 2008 (29)July 2008 (29)August 2008 (34)September 2008 (29)October 2008 (27)November 2008 (27)December 2008 (24)
2007
August 2007 (12)September 2007 (28)October 2007 (27)November 2007 (28)December 2007 (14)
2006
2005
2004
2003
2002
2001
2000
1999
1998
1997
1996
1995
1994
1993
1992
1991
1990
1989
1988
1987
1986
1985
1984
1983
1982
1981
1980
1979
1978
1977
1976
1975
1974
1973
1972
1971
1970
1969
1968
1967
1966
1965
1964
1963
1962
1961
1960
1959
1958
1957
1956
1955
1954
1953
1952
1951
1950