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Upper-middle class whinefest
on 10 April 2017
If you ever needed proof that having a famous relative (Virginia Woolf in this case) was enough to get you into print, then look no further!
Emma was a happy girl, even being sent to London's poshest private school along with her two sisters and two brothers, despite her parents being "hilariously poor" as she puts it. But then life got in the way, a relationship turned sour in Manhattan, together with other tragic events, and anorexia set in. Eating disorders are always tough, no matter who they happen to, but what I presume the author wanted to be a revealing and useful book, simply came off as shallow and irritating. If you're looking for a novel by someone who constantly tells us her lowest weight as an anorexic (VERY triggering, and someone who claims to know as much about anorexia as Ms. Woolf does should know better); name-drops all the places around the globe she has accompanied her travel writer boyfriend on; complains about how awfully exhausting it is to be jetting out of London each weekend to some new and exotic location; mean and nasty third-world countries who don't cook food the way she wants it done ("My food has to be a certain way - and when you travel as much as we do, it rarely is") - food drenched in butter in Tanzania and other African countries, problems in Zanzibar over bread rolls, and an awful time in Barbados looking for low-fat yogurt, not to mention a traumatic experience in midst of the Indian Ocean: "When (Tom, her boyfriend) tried fruit-bat curry in the Seychelles (and I ate a plain green salad), I remember feeling sad that I couldn't join in".
But despite her literary pedigree, her background as a journalist, her own experience as an AN sufferer and her Oxford education, Emma's musings about anorexia barely scratch the surface of the disease, and give precious little insight into how it affects sufferers, unless you count having your gym membership terminated because staff are worried about your health, having your bananas stolen from your hotel room in the tropics by a troupe of baboons, or desperate attempts to make yogurt in a hotel kitchen in Kenya because they don't cook your food the way you want them too. The nerve of it.
She also heaps on scorn on things she doesn't agree with, such as group therapy for women suffering from eating disorders: "When I wrote a column one week, warning other sufferers against getting involved in group therapy, I received some fairly vitriolic responses from practising therapists. I understand: they believe that group settings can be beneficial, but I disagree."
So if all of this is your cup of Darjeeling tea, then by all means buy this book. But if you really want an insight into anorexia and how it affects those it touches, Marya Hornbacher's "Wasted", "Seconds To Snap" by Tina McGuff, or the little-known but superbly written "The Body Tourist" by Dana Lise Shavin are much, much better.