Nonfiction - paperback; Arrow Books; 287 pages; 2004.
Not my usual cup of tea, but I thoroughly enjoyed this glimpse into an unfamiliar world. Carol Lee writes candidly about her friend-come-substitute-daughter's battle with anorexia. She charts Emma's difficult childhood and tries to examine the reasons for her strange and dangerous relationship to food.
During the acute part of her illness Emma hovered close to death; when she was 15 years old she weighed just a little over five-and-a-half stone. Over the next five years her weight fluctuated up and down, in radical increments, as she swung between bingeing on hidden sweets and other foodstuffs, and then starving herself. This had a negative impact on almost all facets of her life, especially her fraught relationship with her mother who seemed unable to give Emma the love and attention she craved.
Ultimately, Emma found herself unprepared for the real world, barely able to function as a young adult because she lacked the confidence and the skills to do even the simplest of tasks like deciding what clothes to wear and how to buy stamps in the post office.
By interspersing entries from Emma's diaries, all of which are heartbreakingly revealing (it almost felt wrong to be reading them because they were so painfully frank), Lee builds up an almost complete picture of Emma's illness and her battle to recover. The only aspect missing, I felt, was Emma's mother's side of the story: how did she feel about this? and how had it changed her?
All in all, an honest and revealing look at a terrible disease. It blows away many myths and should be required reading for anyone who is suffering, or knows someone who is suffering, from an eating disorder.