Thoughts: Postcards from the Edge, by Carrie Fisher

If you aren’t sick of me saying “Wow, this book everyone says is great turns out to be great!” then you are in luck!

I always approach novels by people whose names I know from other spheres with some trepidation, but I’d seen it around on people’s Goodreads, and it finally went on the list, and I had a fantastic time, honestly. Probably not much in the way of spoilers, but you should still go and read it for yourself.

Postcards from the Edge follows Hollywood actress Suzanne Vale through rehab and beyond. The narrative evolves from Suzanne’s postcards to other people, through a journal she keeps in rehab, through blocks of pure dialogue in conversation, to a more “traditional” third person narrative. It might feel choppy, but it shows a nice sort of progression, from Suzanne’s pure communications outwards with no possibility of response, to the journal where she can control what she records and how, to the dialogue where we see interaction for the first time but no inner life, to the full third person experience, pulled a little outwards, where we get a sort of unbiased look at Suzanne and the people around her for the first time.

In the spaces between we get a look at some of the men surrounding her at various points as well, most notably, Alex, who is amazingly awful, like a truly luxuriantly appalling human being. Reading his section was like wallowing in mud, in that it’s gross but it also sort of feels great. I haven’t enjoyed someone’s awfulness like that in a good while.

Fisher has a beautiful eye for detail and a great talent for one-liners. I sniggered to myself multiple times in the reading. A couple of times there were sequences that felt a little stiff, mostly when Suzanne is doing something relatively routine, taking a bath or something, but even her most banal daily routine was pretty interesting to me? Maybe because it’s a little snapshot of a certain slice of ordinary life (for Hollywood people) at a certain time, and that kind of thing generally interests me.

There’s a lot of cool psychological stuff (Suzanne is in therapy and working sincerely at it) and a lot of Hollywood life, with its glamour and facade and precariousness that’s weirdly relatable even to someone who just does creative stuff as a hobby.

This isn’t the kind of drug story that seems to be typical of the genre, in which the central conflict is with drugs and how hard it is to give up, though there are elements of that on the edges. Postcards from the Edge starts in rehab, after all that messy drama that we enjoy reading so much is completely finished, and goes from there. What happens afterwards? What does a life after drugs really look like? How do you continue your life without them when you’re the same person who needed them so badly in the first place?

That makes it sound heavy, but Postcards is written with a light, deliciously spiky touch, full of humour and self-awareness and with a protagonist who seems to be always playing chess with herself and cheating. I really liked it.

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