My first review for The Sunday Times / Peters Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer Of The Year Award, in association with The University of Warwick shortlist, is for The Reading Cure by Laura Freeman.
Laura Freeman is a freelance writer and art critic. Her first book The Reading Cure: How Books Restored My Appetite has been shortlisted for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award.
She writes about art, architecture, books and food for the Spectator, Times, Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph, Apollo, Literary Review, Standpoint, World of Interiors, Country Life and TLS. She is a former dance critic for the Evening Standard.
Her work has been short-listed for Feature Writer of the Year at the British Press Awards.
She read History of Art at Cambridge, graduating with a double first in 2010.
At the young age of fourteen, Laura Freeman was diagnosed with anorexia. Where everyone saw a really thin girl with almost transparent skin, she saw something utterly different in the reflection in the mirror. It was the culmination of months of avoiding certain foods, before almost stopping eating completely until she reached the point where she was starving to death. While she let very little pass her lips in the form of nourishment, she still devoured books, and it was literature that was to hold the key to her recovery.
The road to recovery for an anorexic is long and fraught and it was no different for Laura, but where others just had the mental battle, she had the extra support from the books she was reading. In between the covers of Dickens, Sassoon, Woolf, Lee and Leigh Fermor, she would discover how they were able to consume vast plates full of roast beef, bowls of soup and exotic sounding breads without a care in the world. She reads of soldiers who treasure the moment of a scalding hot cup of tea after an intense battle in World War One. In fact, what she discovered was that these authors loved food; revelled in the taste of what they were eating and sharing the moment with others. These passages in the books slowly gave her the confidence to rediscover food for the pleasure of eating it rather than purely as a fuel.
Even though her mind had driven her to the point of abhorring food, one thing that she never lost was her love of reading. Most people do not realise just how debilitating anorexia is and there is some painful moments in here as she recalls the lowest points of her illness. But there are the moments too, where she is sustained by her mother’s love, an invitation from a friend that arrived at just the right moment. I have read a fair number of the books that Laura talks about in here and whilst the eating and celebration of life between friends and strangers is a key part of them, it is not something that particularly stood out for me, until now. Just reading the descriptions quoted in the book made me very hungry! However, it did for Laura and this list of childhood favourites and other classics has played a crucial role in her accepting that food is not something to avoid and can be enjoyed.
There are lots of things happening online concerning the award if you want to follow it.
The website is here: http://www.youngwriteraward.com
The Young Writers Twitter Account is here: https://twitter.com/YoungWriterYear
You can find them on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/YoungWriterAward/
Or follow the hashtag:
My fellow shadow panel members are also all online:
Amanda Chatterton – Bookish Chat – https://bookishchat.wordpress.com
Susan Osborne – A Life In Books – https://alifeinbooks.co.uk/
Lucy Pearson – The Lit Edit – https://thelitedit.com
Lizzi Risch – These Little Words https://theselittlewords.com/about/
Or follow the hashtag: #youngwriterawardshadow