The Time in Between
By Nancy Tucker
Published by Icon Books
Available 2nd April 2015
I was anxious before receiving ‘The Time in Between’ – an autobiographical novel written by Nancy Tucker who suffered from anorexia as a teenager. I was concerned, having read many books around the topic in the past, that it may congregate to the long list of ‘thinspiration’ literature already available out there; by that I mean books eagerly sought after by those suffering from eating disorders, which are used as inspiration to remain ill, lose weight and mimic eating patterns. My own teenage years were littered with magazine articles and memoirs (mostly) by celebrities – offering their own ‘thin-spiration’ to the masses: all of the ‘What-I-eat-in-a-day articles’, eating disorder ‘scandals’, confessions and photos compiled in great works available in supermarkets, newsagents and bookstores everywhere. The trivialisation of eating disorders by the media, results in Eating Disorders (EDs) frequently being grossly misunderstood. They are not merely a result of vanity, or an attempt to keep up with celeb trends, but are far more deeply rooted than that, and can be triggered by numerous and varying factors. As well as this, ‘thinspiration’ literature also, of course, has a hugely negative impact on any teen girls’ life, whether or not she has an eating disorder, but if she does they certainly don’t aid recovery and can hinder it. However, Nancy has very much seen through all of this and given it much consideration; in the first few pages she warns that she did not write this book to be yet another ‘thinspiration’ manual, and in an act of great empathy, she chooses to leave numbers (weight and calories) out of it, taking a responsible step to discourage those that may wish to use the book in such a way, whilst also acknowledging that she can not take responsibility for others’ actions.
I’m not entirely sure this book is a useful resource to those experiencing eating disorders themselves anyway, if anything it offers hope, but those experiencing the illness will need to actively be seeking that hope in order to retrieve it from between the pages. However, I feel this is the perfect book for anyone that knows someone going through, or recovering from an eating disorder. In a series of film scripts and narrative sections, she explains the futility of trying to help someone with an ED – or perhaps the fact that it really is almost impossible to. In that sense it could be a little bit disheartening, but by sharing her experiences of her daily internal struggle both with and against ‘The Voice’, she offers the chance for readers to empathise with sufferers.
I frequently found myself trapped in amongst the pages of this book, unable to put it down, even when I did still reflecting on the story, wanting to reach an ending a conclusion as soon as possible. Nancy writes the past in such a way that you join with the present version of herself and find yourself rooting for her and willing her to recover, as she explores every facet of her eating disorder, leaving no stones unturned. It was exhausting to read, you find yourself wrapped in Nancy’s thoughts, and experience the ways in which anorexia and eating disorder sufferers rationalise their actions.
I didn’t want her to make a magical recovery, only because I didn’t feel like it would be a truthful conclusion – mental illness is far more complex than that. Then ending was perfect for the story, and without giving anything away, it was not tied up neatly, but reached a point that left me contented with our journey together. I felt as though I was leaving Nancy at a fitting point, and it was time for her to continue on her life journey without us (the readers). She has a beautiful and unique way with words, as she states in the closing paragraphs that she uses copious amounts of them – ‘savouring the taste of the interesting ones on her tongue.’ – I’d love to read more from her in the future.
We really need to get better at talking about mental health and illness in our society. The stigma and ignorance are sadly still very present. The media using military terms in which to describe the ways in which people experience mental illness (“her battle with anorexia” … “fighting depression”… ) etc. How about it’s not about a fight or a battle? It’s an illness, we are humans, we get ill both mentally and physically, (we’re better at discussing and more open about the latter) and we heal- or we don’t, by taking our own steps towards what it is that we feel is best for us. Books like this begin to offer understanding in to such subjects, and Nancy’s tone takes a personal, but practical approach to the topic, it’s neither self-indulgent, nor emotionally dramatized, it’s honest and factual, and yes sad at times, but crucial to opening up discussions and making it okay to talk about these things which we are likely to come in to contact with in one way or another in our lifetimes.
Available to buy from: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Time-Between-Memoir-Hunger/dp/1848318308
(C) Amie Taylor 2015
Amie Taylor is a writer and actor living in London. She is a Co-Director for the LGBTQ Arts and Culture Review, and Interviews Editor for Female Arts. She works with children and young people quite a lot too. She’s also a Diversity Role Model and she plays the ukulele a bit and loves making shadow pictures.
Amie chose to review this book, not as a categorised LGBT book, but as Icon Books approached the review and the issue was of interest to her as a writer.