I have never had an eating disorder, never suffered the mental whirring of calculating calories, self-castigation for consumption and the wrenching anxiety from having inadvertently `lost control' and digested fats. I have nether been voluntarily sick following a meal, trying to expel the poisons that I have polluted my body with. But thanks to this book I feel I understand the condition a lot better, and I would recommend the book to anyone who was interested in, concerned about or suffering from anorexia nervosa or any eating disorder.
I came to this book by a recommendation from a psychologist friend. I am writing a book about my own battle with various forms of anxiety, and when I described it she insisted I read this account. This review is intended to provide a review of the book as a standalone work, regardless of how useful it was for my own writing.
Bowman writes with a candid intimacy that is summed up in the opening line. "If I tell you a secret, do you promise to tell the whole world?" It is a very apt and poignant statement - those suffering from mental illness, in all its varying forms and in all their millions upon millions, tend to do so in a void. Afraid to tell anyone else, afraid to confide and completely unsure as to how to cope. Books like Bowman's not only cast light on the subject for the unaware, but are invaluable lifelines for those suffering. Unlike self-help books they don't aim to change or cure. They just give another point of view, a window into another sufferer's experience and the important realisation that you are far from alone.
Bowman's own problems began as a late teen. She was successful and happy, and should have easily coasted into university and on to a comfortable life. Both fortunately and unfortunately she didn't. Unfortunately for all the suffering she has been through and overcome. Fortunately for being able to write about it in a literary, yet accessible way.
The book is not a strict narrative account of the condition. She deviates into entertaining dramatic scripts of supposed encounters, where she reveals the `inner' voice of Grace, the anorexic voice that is urging her to ever greater feats of self-denial and control. She details some of the science and the thinking behind the condition, gives the consideration and intelligent focus that she, as a sufferer, would have subjected herself to.
This book is gritty and uncompromising, although not in the ruthlessly bleak way of a Million Little Pieces. It is alive with self-awareness, but not self-pity. And ultimately it is hopeful. Bowman's survival and subsequent success gives hope to all those who have suffered.