Before writing about the impact that this novel had on me, I feel that I must preface this by saying that The Girls at 17 Swann Street has content that could be a trigger for those who have struggled or are currently struggling with an eating disorder. If you are looking for support please contact the National Eating Disorder Association helpline at 800-931-2237.
“To you, who, in these pages, found your reading glasses, sweatshirt, earrings, favorite book, flavor of ice-cream, freckles, perfume, signature, crepe recipe, nose twitch, stutter or missing sock.”
Within the pages of this novel, you will meet Anna Roux. A gorgeous and gifted professional dancer who has followed the love of her life from Paris to Missouri. She has gone from having her family and friends around her in the beautiful Paris to eating the majority of her meals alone in the small home that she shares with her husband (who never seems to be home). Her fear of loneliness and imperfection cause her to spiral down into the blackness that is anorexia. After swearing that she will be able to beat the illness on her own and failing, she is forced to enter into 17 Swann Street; a home for women who are trying to overcome their eating disorder.
Anna is at first in denial, she thinks that she will be able to fix herself in no time and that she has nothing in common with the other women who are living in the peach pink house. She is wrong. She quickly learns that the only way to survive the illness that has taken over her body is to ask and accept help and to also be there for others.
This novel sucked me in and wouldn’t let me go until I had finished the last page. I was utterly captivated while reading Anna’s story. I loved the writing style of Swann Street; it was poetically hypnotic. Every page gave me a deeper and deeper understanding of what someone goes through while they battle this disease. As shown throughout this novel, once you have been brought down by an eating disorder the rest of your life will be a battle to stay healthy and to stay strong. There is nothing glamorous about this disease.
I wanted to scream and cry for every single one of the women within the peach pink house on 17 Swann Street. They each had their own story of how they ended up where they did – Zgheib did an outstanding job of showing how every person can be impacted by this. If anything this book served as a lesson to me. It showed me aspects of anorexia that I never understood before.
I recommend this book to anyone who wishes to have a better understanding of what the world of anorexia, binge eating disorder and bulimia nervosa look like; but know that these three are not the only eating disorders out there and that everyone’s story is different.
Thank you Yara Zgheib for writing such a hauntingly beautiful novel that I will always remember.
“There is no tragedy in suffering. It is, just as happiness is. To be present for both, that is life.”