Excerpt from Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Sorrow and Bliss

by Meg Mason

Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason X
Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2021, 352 pages

    Mar 2022, 352 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Grace Graham-Taylor
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About this Book

Print Excerpt

The editor of my funny food column would send me notes saying "not getting this ref" and "rephrase if poss." He used Track Changes. I pressed Accept, Accept, Accept. After he had taken out all the jokes, it was just a food column. According to LinkedIn, my editor was born in 1995.

* * *

The party we were coming home from was for my fortieth birthday. Patrick planned it because I had told him that I wasn't in the right place, re celebrating.

He said, "We have to attack the day."

"Do we."

We listened to a podcast on the train once, sharing the same headphones. Patrick had folded his sweater into a pillow so I could put my head on his shoulder. It was the Archbishop of Canterbury on Desert Island Discs. He told a story about losing his first child in a car crash a long time ago.

The presenter asked him how he coped with it now. He said that when it comes to the anniversary, Christmas, her birthday, he had learned that you have to attack the day, "so it doesn't attack you."

Patrick seized on the principle. He started saying it all the time. He said it while he was ironing his shirt before the party. I was on our bed watching Bake Off on my laptop, an old episode I had seen before. A contestant takes someone else's Baked Alaska out of the fridge and it melts in the tin. It made the front page of the papers: a saboteur in the Bake Off tent.

Ingrid texted me when it first aired. She said she would go to her grave knowing that Baked Alaska had been taken out on purpose. I said I was on the fence. She sent me all the cake emojis and the police car.

When he had finished ironing, Patrick came and sat semi-next to me on the bed and watched me watching. "We have to—"

I hit the space bar. "Patrick, I don't really think we should coopt Bishop Whoever in this case. It's only my birthday. Nobody has died."

"I was just trying to be positive."

"Okay." I hit the space bar again.

After a moment he told me it was nearly quarter to. "Should you start getting ready? I'd like to be the first ones there. Martha?"

I closed the computer. "Can I wear what I'm wearing?" Leggings, a Fair Isle cardigan, I can't remember what underneath. I looked up and saw that I had hurt him. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I'll get changed."

Patrick had hired the upstairs part of a bar we used to go to. I did not want to be the first ones there, unsure if I should sit or stand while I waited for people to arrive, wondering if anybody was going to, then feeling awkward on behalf of the person who had the misfortune of being first. I knew that my mother would not be there because I told Patrick not to invite her.

Forty-four people came in units of two. After the age of thirty, it is always even numbers. It was November and freezing. Everyone took a long time to give up their coats. They were mostly Patrick's friends. I had lost touch with my own, from school and university and all the jobs I have had since, one by one as they had children and I didn't and there was nothing left for us to talk about. On the way to the party, Patrick said if anyone did start telling me a story about their children, maybe I could try and look interested.

They stood around and drank Negronis—2017 was "the year of the Negroni"—and laughed very loudly and made impromptu speeches, one speaker stepping forward from each group like representatives of a team. I found an ambulant toilet and cried in it.

Ingrid told me fragapane phobia is the fear of birthdays. It was the fun fact from the peel-off strip from sanitary pads, which she says are her chief source of intellectual stimulation at this point, the only reading she gets time for. She said, in her speech, "We all know Martha is an amazing listener, especially if she's the one talking." Patrick had something written on index cards.

There wasn't a single moment when I became the wife I am, although if I had to choose one, my crossing the room and asking my husband not to read out whatever was on those cards would be a contender.

Excerpted from Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason. Copyright © 2021 by Meg Mason. Excerpted by permission of Harper. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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