Borderline by Marie-Sissi Labrèche

Interwoven with childhood memories and the later day repercussions of a childhood never asked for, Borderline by Marie-Sissi Labrèche boldly tells the tale of a young woman battling the symptoms of her past. Sissi, who had an extremely difficult childhood living with a mother who suffered from schizophrenia and an emotionally abusive grandmother, is trying to navigate her way through a life she never asked for, on an emotional journey that was never more relatable to read.

“This novel gives voice to a mental illness not so well known by the general public.”

This is an unforgettable novel. One that hyperbolizes but still accurately portrays in its centre some of the emotions and thought patterns behind Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), adding dramatic flair to a very real psychological rollercoaster. This novel gives voice to a mental illness not so well known by the general public. It does this by taking the reader through the highs and lows that come along with BPD, in one of the most quotable novels about the topic yet.

The prologue instantly captured and held my attention, finishing on a note that many people may be able to identify with, especially those with BPD that have engaged in very similar behaviours, as is a common symptom of this mental illness. (Not to say everyone with BPD thinks or acts this way or to this extreme of an extent, but that this is a hyperbolized retelling of some of the thoughts and emotions one with this illness may be experiencing.) Labrèche writes:

“But more than anything, what I’m most scared of is not being loved. So I spread my legs to get a little glimpse of heaven. I spread my legs to forget who I am. I spread my legs to shine like a little star. I love myself so little, I’ll spread my legs for anyone who seems to like me even a tiny bit” (8).

This novel accurately describes motivations behind actions people with BPD are too often shamed for. Sissi’s unapologetic sexuality is a continuous theme throughout this novel, much like her extreme mood shifts. Many of the shifts in mood and tone are expert depictions of the sudden and extreme emotional shifts that are symptoms of borderline, making Sissi the unreliable narrator we all are of our own lives, unapologetically sharing her thoughts and experiences in a bold tale that never disappoints.

Readers, though, must keep in mind that although this novel depicts a character with Borderline, it is still a work of fiction, dramatizing and exaggerating what it is like to live with BPD. Symptoms vary between different people as well.

Overall, Borderline is a short novel you will want to read in one sitting, only ever pausing to underline or highlight the passages you know you will be reading over and over again, unable to tear yourself away. I would recommend this novel for everyone as it is a great read that opens up conversation on a topic not often discussed.

Marie-Sissi Labrèche is a writer and journalist based in Montreal. Born in 1969, Labrèche is the author of seven books. Borderline, her first novel, was published in 2000. The book was adapted into an award-winning film, also called Borderline, in 2008.

Melissa Bull is a writer and editor, as well as a French-to-English translator of fiction, essays, and plays. Melissa lives in Montreal.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Anvil Press (Aug. 30 2020)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 160 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1772141437
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1772141436

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Michala Keeler is a fifth-year student attending St Thomas University, majoring in English, Philosophy, and Psychology. Completing her final year of studies online, she enjoys reading paper books in her downtime. She respectfully acknowledges that she is residing on unsurrendered and unceded traditional Wolastoqey land.