Friday, February 1, 2019

Review: The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib

The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib 
Release date: February 5, 2019
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 384
Reading level: Adult
Genre: Contemporary
Source: Netgalley
Links: Author • Goodreads • Amazon

Overall: 3 out of 5 stars 
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.

THE GIRLS AT 17 SWANN STREET followed 26 year old Anna as she fought with anorexia. The only other books about eating disorders I have read have been young adult, focusing on teenagers dealing with anorexia or bulimia. Yara Zgheib's novel demonstrated that eating disorders do not just strike the young, but can impact you at any age. Anna is happily married, but an injury left her unable to pursue her career as a dancer in Paris and her husband has a job offer in the United States. I can only imagine how difficult this transition was for Anna.

Anna was a character that I had a bit of a hard time connecting with. We got glimpses of her internal struggles, but as a whole, I felt a lot of what led up to her eating disorder was a bit rushed. The book was over 300 pages, but it went by very quickly. One of the biggest issues I've seen about the book is the writing style. The lack of quotation marks, the random aside chapters... and this actually didn't bother me much. There were a few times I had to reread a scene to ensure I knew who was saying what, but as a whole I think it made the story a little more engaging.

The other girls at 17 Swann Street all were dealing with their own body image issues. I found it interesting, although terribly sad, to see how the program worked at turning these girls' lives around. Although, I'm not sure how accurate this depiction of a recovery center is. Anna learned a lot about appreciating what she has by her interactions with Emm, Valerie, Julia, and the other residents of the center. One thing Anna could not complain about was the dedication her husband showed her throughout her time in treatment. This book really showed was how important a support system is for someone dealing with an eating disorder.

I flew through THE GIRLS AT 17 SWANN STREET and found it to be a uniquely told story that discussed a difficult topic. I only wish that I had more time to connect with the main character and that certain parts of the story were not so rushed. Although the story took place over several months, it seemed to be much less. This is a book to be read more for the subject matter and writing style, not necessarily the characters as they were not fully fleshed out.

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