Title: Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison
Author: Piper Kerman
Publisher: Speigel & Grau
Published: September 2009
My Rating: 2.5/5
I expect a lot of people will have heard of the Netflix series ‘Orange is the New Black’, and I totally agree that it’s worth the hype. But being me, of course I then had to go and read the memoir that it is based on.
If you expect the book to be in any way similar to the series, you will be very disappointed. The ‘Orange is the New Black’ series is about as close to the book as ‘Sex and the City’ series is to the compilation of newspaper columns with the same name; in other words, not very close at all. Other than the main character Piper Kerman, the only other obvious aspect of the book in the series is that it takes place in a woman’s prison in America. Of course there are a few recognizable characteristics in certain characters, but as much of it was changed from real life to the book to protect people’s identities, the characters in the show are presumably nothing like their real life counter-parts.
The fact that the book and series aren’t the same did tarnish my reading experience, though I think the book in itself is an okay read. If you want a realistic view of a woman’s prison, the book is the way to go. If you want a greatly exaggerated and exciting version, the series ticks those boxes. Basically, if you are looking for the enjoyment factor I would say skip the book altogether and sign up to Netflix (the £5.99 a month is worth it just for this series, and you get the first month free anyway).
But this is supposed to be a review of the book. Piper Kerman does have the ability to write with what seems like complete honesty – unfortunately that isn’t particularly rare in this style of book. Honestly, other than the interest of what a singular prison experience is like (although she does compare it to a few other places she was held towards the end), ‘Orange is the New Black’ is neither exciting nor relatable-to (at least for me). It felt more like a school essay trying to convince us of the problems with the American prison system; problems that most of us are already well aware of.
One thing I did enjoy about this book, was the different types of relationships Kerman formed with others – with her fiancé, her family, his family, the prison guards and of course, the other inmates. For me, the emotions and thoughts that these relationships create in Kerman are the highlight of ‘Orange is the New Black’, and does give way to some character development – though not as much as I would have liked to see. The majority of this development is how Kerman becomes aware of how drugs can change and ruin people’s lives, and her questioning the system in place to deal with those people drugs affect.
Overall, this book was alright, but as mentioned before, the previous viewing of the series (of which I can’t wait for the next series) ruined my reading experience. I wouldn’t recommend this book unless you are looking for an insider’s view of prison, particularly relating to drugs.
[Disclaimer: I am not being sponsored in any way, all opinions are my own.]