Meg Mason: ‘Sorrow and Bliss was a post-hope project. I was convinced that no one would ever see it’

A hit in Australia, where she lives, Meg Mason’s novel Sorrow and Bliss tackles marriage and mental health with humour and heart. She discusses why she wrote it in secret

When Meg Mason took herself off to her shed to write her third book, a certain pragmatic confidence accompanied her. After all, she knew she could do it: there on her shelves were her memoir of having children in her 20s, Say It Again in a Nice Voice, and her 2017 novel You Be Mother. The New Zealander, now 43, had built up a career in journalism in the UK and Australia, where she lives, writing for outlets such as the Times, Vogue and the New Yorker, and felt comfortable with discipline and deadlines. If she sat there for a year, she figured, something “at least as good” as her previous work would emerge.

It did not, not even when there were 85,000 words of it. And it wasn’t just that “untitled Christmas novel” wasn’t coming together as she’d hoped, it was that “it was dreadful, it was awful, and I knew it, and I didn’t stop”. It probably still exists somewhere in Gmail, she says now, but “I couldn’t open it with a gun to my head”. Her feeling at the end of that year was overwhelmingly one of failure, of not “being equal” to the thing that she most wanted to do.

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