My thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to take part in this blog tour. The decision to read was my own, and this review forms my honest opinion.
She’s funny. She’s flawed. She’s hiding so much behind her big smile she’s forgotten who she is. But Greta is about to discover that the key to being happy is…being you. Greta Gale has played the part of the funny fat one her entire life, hiding her insecurities behind a big smile. But size doesn’t matter when you can laugh at yourself, right? Until Greta realises she’s the only one not laughing. And deep down, she’s not sure if she’ll ever laugh again. But with her world feeling like it’s falling down around her, Greta is about to discover she’s stronger than she feels. And that sometimes the best moments in life come when it’s all gone a bit pear shaped…
Having struggled with my weight since having children, I approach books that deal with overweight characters with a certain amount of caution. I have no desire to read anything that insinuates that life can only be good if you are a certain size. I’m trying to live a more healthy life, physically and mentally by accepting my body and learning to celebrate it, rather than living a half life in shame simply because my bits happen to wobble a fair bit more than I’d like. This has become even more important to me now I have a daughter, I want to teach her by example to have a healthy, confident attitude towards her own body and towards food. Happily, as I read about this book, it seemed to be the perfect accompaniment to my own journey.
And I was right.
My Pear-Shaped Life is a beautifully written story about Greta Gale, an aspiring actress whose life has run completely off track. At the heart of this novel is a strong message of self acceptance. It’s not about shedding the pounds, but instead it advocates that you love yourself enough to fight your demons and live your best life.
There was so much of Greta I could relate to. From the way she hid herself away with tricks, the reluctance to put her real self out there, and the way in which the hatred of herself was so deeply ingrained that she was missing out on living her life. I’ve done that. I’ve been there. Greta’s story is told with real sensitivity and understanding. Her downward spiral is utterly believable and I shed tears at the thought of this talented woman thinking so little of herself. The journey the author takes her on is a wonderful one of self discovery, and it gave me a huge amount to think about. In a world so dominated with images of unattainable perfection, it’s too easy to compare, and too easy to be sucked in to feeling less.
Alongside Greta are a fantastic cast of characters. From her supportive Uncle Ray, whose own story ran perfectly alongside Greta’s journey, to her friendship with Dylan, through to her immediate family and the complexities of those relationships and the effects of the events of the novel on them. I felt that the family dynamic was a refreshing one. Very often these types of books focus wholly on romantic relationships, whereas this clear focus felt like a great way of getting to know Greta on a grassroots level and really helped to cement her as a character.
The thing that struck me the most was how real this felt. Not only in terms of the relevance of the subject matter, but also in that Greta didn’t feel like a intangible being in the pages of a book; when reading she came to life. Her journey was grounded in reality. Her progress is not a single light bulb moment coming at a climactic moment in the book, but is instead the culmination of lots of little moments, hard work and understanding. In the end, her weight is not the thing that defines her, and I think that is a lesson so many of us battling with our weight need to learn. We are so much more than our dress size.
This is a book I have been very enthusiastically recommending to friends and family! Despite the dark places the character visits, it is one of the most hope-filled, joyful books I’ve read this year. Without a doubt, it is one I will return to in the future. I adore Greta Gale, and I will be checking out more novels by Carmel Harrington – she may just have found a new fan in me!
About the Author
Carmel Harrington is an internationally published novelist from Co. Wexford, where she lives with her family. She has published seven novels and been shortlisted twice (2016 & 2017) for an Irish Book Award. Her books have captured the hearts of readers worldwide and are published in eight languages to date. She is co-founder of The Inspiration Project and was Chair of Wexford Literary Festival from 2015 – 2018.