‘The chocolate went first, then the cheese, the fries, the ice cream. The bread was more difficult, but if she could just lose a little more weight, perhaps she would make the soloists’ list. Perhaps if she were lighter, danced better, tried harder, she would be good enough. Perhaps if she just ran for one more mile, lost just one more pound.
Anna Roux was a professional dancer who followed the man of her dreams from Paris to Missouri. There, alone with her biggest fears – imperfection, failure, loneliness – she spirals down anorexia and depression till she weighs a mere eighty-eight pounds. Forced to seek treatment, she is admitted as a patient at 17 Swann Street, a peach pink house where pale, fragile women with life-threatening eating disorders live. Women like Emm, the veteran; quiet Valerie; Julia, always hungry. Together, they must fight their diseases and face six meals a day.’
Firstly, I would like to thank NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing me with the ARC (Kindle version) of this book in exchange for an honest review. Now, on to the hard part…
I have mixed feelings about The Girls at 17 Swann Street.
On the one hand, the story was heart-breaking, incredibly intimate and honest which is something that can be quite rare in a book that deals with an illness such as eating disorders. Nothing about Anna’s illness is glamorised or romanticised in any way which is what fiction of this kind is often in danger of doing. Mental illness and eating disorders have become almost fashionable in literature and whilst its brilliant to see so many authors doing their bit to end the stigma and bring attention to issues which affect so many people, there is also a danger to just including them for dramatic effect or as a plot device. The Girls at 17 Swann Street is the exact opposite of this, which made it a difficult but compelling read.
That being said, I really didn’t like the writing style. As much as I was engaged with the story, the way in which it was written just didn’t appeal to me. It felt inconsistent, disjointed and quite difficult to follow and it wasn’t clear whether this was intentional or not. The book moved from past tense to present tense and from narrative to written medical reports so quickly that there often felt like things were missing from the story or I would sometimes wonder if I had skipped a page.
I think it’s worth saying that this is not the kind of story that you enjoy reading. It was painful at parts because of the subject matter so if you’re looking for a light read and a happy ending then this is not the book for you.
If I was judging this book based on story alone then I probably would have rated it higher. I would still definitely recommend reading this if it sounds interesting to you as my issues with the writing style are really a matter of personal preference, so I think this could be a book that a lot of people would love and relate to.
The Girls at 17 Swann Street will be released on February 5, 2019, and is available for preorder now.
Thank you for reading! Do you like the sound of this book? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!