Through Thick and Thin by Gok Wan

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Through Thick and Thin by Gok Wan

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Category: Autobiography
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: Unflinchingly honest about the trials and traumas of his life, and his slow rise to fame, this is a perfect gift for any of the many women who would love Gok to take them shopping!
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 368 Date: October 2010
Publisher: Ebury Press
ISBN: 978-0091938390

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Famous for his sensitivity and understanding with women, encouraging them and enabling them to accept themselves, and their bodies, as they are, Gok Wan's autobiography sadly tells a very different story with regards to his own body acceptance. Having gained weight throughout his childhood, getting up to twenty one stone as a teenager, he loathed his body and ended up starving himself, becoming anorexic in a desperate effort to be thin and, therefore, successful. Perhaps this is where his empathy comes from? That when he stands a woman in front of a wall of mirrors in her underwear, he actually truly understands what it is to loathe your own body.

I didn't realise that Gok's original ambitions had been to act, and that it is only through a series of lucky incidents that he ended up first as a make-up artist, then stylist, before moving onto our TV screens. The book tells of his childhood, growing up in a mixed race family (his dad is Hong Kong Chinese, his mum is white), flunking out of school, going on to study drama and working a series of dead-end jobs before wheeling and dealing (well, basically lying) his way into the style business.

There are quite a few recipes sprinkled through the book, although they're very informal in tone. (I recognised one that uses a pack of instant noodles as being something my husband likes to make up for himself late at night when he's staying up playing computer games). Food was very important to Gok, growing up in a Chinese family who ran their own restaurant. He says I still have moments, when serving the rice, of absolute happiness because to me, rice symbolises stability, unity and togetherness. Food means love and family. Unfortunately, as he grew older and heavier he began a lifelong battle with food which leads to him starving himself whilst living in London and studying at Central.

When he writes of his anorexia he is unflinchingly honest. He copies out his food diary from that time and it reads Thursday, 14th March 1 apple, 1 banana and 40 laxatives. Friday, 15th March 2 apples, 1 slimma soup and 40 laxatives. Saturday, 16th March 2 teaspoons of honey, 40 laxatives. His retreat into starvation isn't glamorised, and you feel how lonely and isolated he became, and how afraid he was. He speaks just as honestly about the bullying he experienced whilst at school, bullying that was about both his weight and his sexuality, and I'm certain that many readers will feel a kinship with him on one or both of these sensitive issues.

As well as the recipes throughout, there are also personal letters dotted here and there. I liked these less than the recipes as they were very sentimental, quite personal and made me feel a little awkward somehow. Some people in his life obviously seemed to deserve a letter, but then others felt a bit shoe-horned in, in a 'oh I'd better not leave them out' kind of way! It's probably my own personal taste, and I'm sure others less hard-hearted will be weeping over them. The only one that really 'got' me was his final letter to his father, and perhaps only because I could quite clearly picture his father from how he's described in the book. He writes about his family with an enormous amount of love. They are obviously hugely important to him and I enjoyed reading about his childhood and his times with his family.

I must mention, and I think this often applies with celebrity autobiographies, that you shouldn't expect too much with regards to writing style. There were times when this read a bit like a teenager writing 'my life story', yet it's very accessible, and very readable. I think if you're already interested in Gok, watch his shows and like his manner and style then you'll enjoy this for what it is - an honest, fresh book about his struggles with food and his ambition to make something for himself.

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

Further reading suggestion: If this book appeals to you then you might also enjoy Girls' Night In by Loose Women or Dear Fatty by Dawn French.

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Buy Through Thick and Thin by Gok Wan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Through Thick and Thin by Gok Wan at


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