Coming Clean by Cathryn Kemp

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Coming Clean by Cathryn Kemp

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Category: Autobiography
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Zoe Morris
Reviewed by Zoe Morris
Summary: An interesting and at times painful account of a nice girl turned addict, this will tug on all your empathy strings.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: February 2017
Publisher: Piatkus
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0749958077

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When Cathryn develops acute pancreatitis it leaves her in intense pain. With no obvious cure, she is prescribed strong painkillers to manage the painful flare ups. Yet still she bounces in and out of hospital, from one 'expert' to another, undergoes needless operations when Consultants say I know there's no evidence for this, but we may as well try it…the list goes on. As time passes, the pain remains but is joined by a new friend: a dangerous addiction to painkillers, prescribed at many times above the usual dose and soon to have a damaging effect on her health.

Addict is a funny word. Lots of people cheerfully boast that they are a self confessed craft addict or a little bit addicted to watching kitten videos on Youtube but they are not, of course. They can stop quite easily if they have to. Cathryn, however, doesn't have this luxury. This is an honest memoir about coming back from rock bottom. The Amazon reviews show it has clearly struck a chord with those in similar situations, but as someone with neither the pain nor the addiction to shout about, I was interested to see how I took to it. It can be hard to comment on the character in this sort of book because in an autobiography when you say you don't like someone you are saying you don't like them as a real person, not just the way they have been written, a character constructed in the mind of a writer. Luckily, I didn't mind Cathryn. We might not necessarily be BFFs, but I found her insight interesting, her narration thoughtful, and her idiosyncrasies tolerable.

There is a lot of repetition in this book due to the nature of the author's experience with services. She's in, she's out, and for the first few chapters you could open the book at a random page and not really know where you are in the saga as it's more of the same. This isn't a negative, and if anything it helps empathy as you become as frustrated as she herself was with the constant cycle of flare up, admission, treatment, discharge and then flare up again.

Later in the story, things change. It's Christmas and, as is standard practice, GPs issue doubles of repeat prescriptions to tide people over until normal surgery hours resume in the new year. Except Cathryn doesn't get a second dose of her strong pain killers, and she's not happy. At the same time, a bid for NHS treatment fails because she doesn't meet treatment thresholds, and she is left with a tough decision to make.

It's not the sort of book I normally read, but I was intrigued by the story. The writing certainly helps, as you need a journalistic flair to take this away from a simple pity party, and it was very informative to the extent I don't really need, or want, to read anyone else's take on the subject. Much like Cathryn, I've had enough.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending us a copy to review. Unusual? Certainly. Troubling? At times. But overall it is a recommended read however much you may or may not identify with the situation. That's one of the great things about autobiographies – you never find two the same much like you never find two people the same, but you'll always learn something new. If this style of writing appeals to you, you really should check out our Newest Autobiography Reviews.

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Buy Coming Clean by Cathryn Kemp at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Coming Clean by Cathryn Kemp at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy Coming Clean by Cathryn Kemp at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Coming Clean by Cathryn Kemp at


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