My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh

I put off reading this book because the premise of a Millennial so exhausted by life that she sleeps for a year seemed irritating and trite. Actually, this book is a clever and insightful study of depression, in anyone. It speaks directly to that the urge to, ostrich like, retreat and pass time unknowingly till the world returns to full colour. It is a study of bereavement and the horrific realisation that recovery is a solitary process that must be endured over many months, if not years. The main character is unlikable, misanthropic and selfish. However, she also loathes herself to such an extent that she perceives her only option to be pharmaceutically-induced dissociation, a pill-based cocoon from which she hopes to emerge renewed. Of course, the notion that a privileged woman needs to engage in such self-serving and navel-gazing behaviour is irritating, but this is a literary device that allows the reader to believe in the project–who else would have the time or resources for such pretentiousness. There are larger commentaries here too, the omnipresence of mainstream media, the way in which we are battered relentlessly with bad news. The option to be psychologically numbed using pills, the prevalence of polypharmacy, which is itself driven, in part, by the unhealthy co-dependence between elected government officials and big pharma. This book acknowledges the bravery required to face personal and societal trials unaided and wide awake, but also that sometimes retreat is necessary and transformative.