This book covers the author's early life as the daughter of a diplomat - 4 years in Japan, followed by China, New York, Bangladesh, with a short ocda in Burma.
All this is linked by reflections on "hunger". The term's stretched a bit - the book starts with a short philosophical consideration of Vanuatu, never desired by anyone because life there is too easy and there is no hunger, goes on to consider real hunger in China, but hunger for experience on the part of the author (largely ecstatic experience, whether the hunt for sweet things to eat, the pleasures of drinking water as a child in vast quantities, or of getting drunk freely as a child on alcohol) but also finally anorexia - not really a state of hunger at all.
Written with great delicacy and lightness of touch, the personal impressions of each place and brought vividly to life as is the emergent sensibility of the author. It's a book to read at one or two sittings and to re-read (to work out how the author has worked her magic on you).
Pain enters this story and harsh personal experience, but you would hardly think this as you read. It's a remarkable blend of distance from and sympathy with chilhood and adolescent experience and philosophical speculation on hunger that is ultimately not convincing, but that is never less than compelling as you read.
This is more of a novella. The chapters are a couple of pages at most. It purports to be a story of the author's life, but is written with such novelistic flair it is hard to know how much of it is true and how much has been 'fictionalized'. It is beautifully written and a nice mixture of reminiscence, philosophy and at times is very poetic.
It tells the story of the author as she was growing into adulthood and her 'hunger' for emotions, experiences and feelings. She flirts with the onset of her anorexia but this is barely mentioned at all until the last few pages of the book and is only a tiny part of her obsession with hunger in general.
This book is beautifully written. From the first paragraphs it grabs you like one of those rare poems that get inside your head to show you someone else knows how it feels or maybe just that specific food you've been craving for days.
Although as a novel about the author's childhood it works well, as a study of her hunger, it lacks a little in the second half. The subject of anorexia is clearly not the author's main topic here, but it could have been made so much more of, and helped to back up her novel's theme with more impact and resonance than she allows.