Book Review: Paint It Black by Janet Fitch

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Paint It Black by Janet Fitch is one of the best books I’ve read lately, and I absolutely don’t recommend it – to anyone. In fact, after I write this, I might just tear it up for recycling.

Why would I do that? Didn’t I just say that it’s one of the best books I’ve read lately? It is – it absolutely is. It’s also one of the saddest, most depressing, and suicide-inducing books I’ve read, and as an avid reader of holocaust literature, I’ve read a lot.

This book has echoes of Waiting for Godot, of Sylvia Plath’s Bell Jar, and of Elie Wiesel’s Night. I believe Janet Fitch to be an extraordinarily talented writer, and this book is no exception. Her book White Oleander would definitely be on my personal Top 20 of all time best books (which would include both The Bell Jar and Night). In fact, this one would even be ranked higher than White Oleander (if I were to keep it).

However, after reading it, and sitting with the absolute despair that the book awoke in me, I tried to think of who I could give it to. My list got narrower and narrower – can’t give it to the depressed, and won’t give it to the happy. Wouldn’t possibly donate it to a library where an unsuspecting person might pick it up and possibly commit suicide after. Can’t give it to anyone struggling, and can’t give it to anyone not struggling. Who is the perfect person for this book? Only someone else who is interested in literature for literature’s sake only, and frankly, I can’t think of anyone else that I know who would fit under that description. If I were friends with any of my old professors, maybe… but I’d want to know the state of their personal mental health before passing it along. I actually spent days recovering from this intensely disturbing book.

This is just one woman’s opinion of a book, and I do think the writing is above par. And not only is the writing excellent, but the plot is engaging, and the characters are realistic and interesting.

But don’t read this book. Or if you absolutely must, keep the number of a crisis counselor on hand for afterwards.