Inside of Me by Hazel McHaffie

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Inside of Me by Hazel McHaffie

Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: An elegant look at the isolation of the anorexic and their family. I couldn't put the book down and a twist at the end left me gasping. It's an informed and very readable consideration of the medical ethics of treating anorexics. Book Club secretaries please note: there's an excellent list of questions to consider at the back of the book. Hazel McHaffie popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 242 Date: March 2016
Publisher: VelvetEthics Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0992623128

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It's never specifically said that India Grayson losing her father when she was eight was the cause of her anorexia when she was fifteen, but you see, losing is the best description of what happened. He was a strong swimmer, but even he might have got into difficulties and what other explanation was there for the pile of his clothes on the beach? Only India never quite believed that he was dead and his body had never been found. Had it been something about her that forced him away?

In the intervening seven years life hadn't been easy for Tonya Grayson either. She knew that Victor hadn't been happy in the months before he disappeared but he rebuffed every attempt to discuss whatever was the matter. On balance she thought that he was dead, but there was something else which was nagging at her mind. Victor had been missing from home on several occasions in the months before he disappeared and two of his absences coincided with the disappearances of two local teenagers. Then there was the pair of lacy panties which she found in a drawer. Had guilt driven him to suicide? Was he even concerned that he had unnatural feelings for his daughter? They'd been close to the point where Tonya often felt excluded.

Chris Taylor works in a florist's shop in London and she loves her job. Life hasn't always been particularly easy for her - she's lost a daughter herself - and when she spots a teenager on the streets of London who's obviously a runaway, she steps in to help. Will her motives be misunderstood?

When we meet India she's convinced that she heard her father's voice on Kings Cross Station and she's determined to find him. In this she's aided by her best friend Mercedes and the two girls have something else in common: both are obsessed with slimming. This isn't about losing that inch or two of puppy fat which a lot of people carry in their early teens. This about feeling you're gross if you can't fit into a pair of size four jeans.

I couldn't put this book down. India Grayson's voice is totally authentic - to the point where the voice in my head was actually that of my teenage granddaughter and I found myself wondering if she was eating properly! Her attitudes and obsessive nature are conveyed brilliantly and for the first time I really felt that I understood the intractable nature of this dreadful illness. It's not susceptible to logic or to reason and I had to smile when India said that obesity was the real problem and she was simply taking responsibility for her own health. I liked that Hazel McHaffie never gives us details of India's height and weight. I'd love every teenager who worries about their body image to read this book and the lack of specific figures means that there's no quick get out of 'I weigh far more than her - so I'm OK to continue starving myself'. An appropriate weight is personal to each individual.

Tonya Grayson's voice resonated with me too - and will with anyone who has ever tried to reason with a determined teenager. She's saying all the right words, adopting all the right attitudes, but India is still losing weight. Neatly included are all the signs to look for, even down to the smell of disinfectant around the toilet or too regular use of mouthwash which might suggest vomiting.

McHaffie has trained as a nurse and a midwife and has a PhD in Social Sciences. She knows what she's talking about, but more importantly she can write a compelling story which brings out the seriousness of an illness such as anorexia in a totally believable way. There's a fascinating look at the question of when a child is competent to make decisions about her own health. Do parents really know better than their children? Are children necessarily wrong because their view doesn't accord with that of their parents or doctors?

The main thrust of this book is India's anorexia, but there are several other ethical issues which are explored and a major twist at the end of the story which left me gasping, but which is, in itself, an issue which is currently commanding a lot of media interest. I'm not going to even hint about what it is, because I want you to have the same pleasure which I had. One of my favourite authors, Linda Gillard, said McHaffie's book has a terrific shock in the story which sent her back to the beginning to see if the author had cheated. She hadn't - and I did exactly the same thing so I know she's right.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

We've also been impressed by McHaffie's fiction about organ donation and end-of-life care.

Bookinterviews.jpg Hazel McHaffie was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.

Buy Inside of Me by Hazel McHaffie at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Inside of Me by Hazel McHaffie at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Inside of Me by Hazel McHaffie at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Inside of Me by Hazel McHaffie at Amazon.com.


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