Review by Tim Pieraccini

Author of 'Yes'

Obsessive? Compulsive!

“The phone rang three times today and each time it was not her.”

A book for anyone who has been overwhelmed by the presence—and then the absence—of another person. And who hasn’t?

These are diary entries, true events, and yet they have a novelistic precision and a dramatic sense that reveal Natasha Holme as a natural, instinctive writer. She has an eye for telling details, an exact feeling for how much to tell (I’m assuming these diaries are somewhat edited) and a matter-of-fact honesty that keep her voice compelling even when the behaviour she’s describing is—frankly—bat-shit crazy.

We jump into the story without preamble. Natasha and Alex meet, as part of a larger group working in Germany. Everyone will recognise the little things that seem so important when we first feel attracted to someone—the ‘significant’ coincidences, similarities of taste—and there is a definite dramatic and sexual tension in the narrative as it follows the two girls’ tentative friendship. But even at this early stage, there is a warning sign: a reference to ‘beauty’ being the opposite of ‘big’.

The relationship is not consummated in Germany, and the uncertain dance continues, with the protagonists now separated. Natasha announces her intention of losing weight to impress Alex. At this stage Natasha is clearly in a state of heightened romantic and sexual feeling about life as a whole, and seems to be assessing everyone, male and female, in terms of their attractiveness to her. Although thinking constantly about Alex, and still in the throes of a serious crush on an old teacher (she has photos of her blown up and plastered on her walls), Natasha embarks on a programme of sexual experimentation with men, determined to bed five before she next sees Alex. At the same time she is becoming more involved with the Gay and Lesbian society at University, and we see her slightly obsessive tendencies manifesting in her catalogue of what she has learned about one member of the society she finds attractive, a fearlessly ‘out’ lesbian called Vikki. And Natasha’s determination to achieve any goal is demonstrated as the deadline for her bedding her five men approaches. These are warning signs of what is to come with her determination to lose weight.

About halfway through the book it starts to become less about Natasha’s relationships with people and more about her relationship with food and her weight. I admit I find this less gripping, but it nevertheless has a grimly compelling quality of its own—there were pages I found literally difficult to read as she describes what she does to herself to induce vomiting. The lists of food consumed are of far less interest than the chronicles of sexual and emotional misadventures, but they have their place as a measure of the obsession. And throughout she remains refreshingly honest—as when admitting that she ‘needs’ the male sexual harassment she gets at work to bolster her confidence—and amusingly self aware: “I shall soon be inflicting paralysis by conversation” (as she notes she is talking about food again).

This book is several things—an eye-opener for those of us who have never experienced what ‘thin=beautiful’ can do to someone’s self-image, a chronicle of awakening, an examination of the different things we look for in terms of intimacy, and a frankly terrifying description of what a sane and intelligent person can subject themselves to—but most of all it is a crisply-written, honest and unsentimental memoir that will strike many chords in responsive readers of any gender or sexual orientation.

“Hannah the Christian came to visit me at my request. I wish everyone were gay.” Without a single wasted word you know everything. Recommended.

Posted on by natasha holme in Reviews and tagged , , ,

One Comment

  1. Posted April 18, 2012 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    “Bat-shit crazy”? It certainly looks that way, doesn’t it. It all seemed like appropriate behaviour at the time. …

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