Thursday, 4 May 2017


Title: Countless
Author: Karen Gregory
Genre: Teens, YA, General Fiction (Adult)
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Release Date: 4th May 2017

BLURB from Goodreads
'Is there anything that's concerning you?’ Felicity says. ‘College, home, boyfriends?' Though she's more or less smiling at this last one.

I don't smile. Instead, I feel my face go hot. Silence stretches as wide as an ocean.
When I look up, Felicity has this expression on her face like she's just seen Elvis. Slowly, she leans forward and in a gentle voice I've never heard her use before she says, 'Have you done a pregnancy test?'

When Hedda discovers she is pregnant, she doesn’t believe she could ever look after a baby. The numbers just don’t add up. She is young, and still in the grip of an eating disorder that controls every aspect of how she goes about her daily life. She’s even given her eating disorder a name – Nia. But as the days tick by, Hedda comes to a decision: she and Nia will call a truce, just until the baby is born. 17 weeks, 119 days, 357 meals. She can do it, if she takes it one day at a time … 


I aren't totally sure exactly what initially drew me to this book, but for some reason I got the same 'I have to read this' feeling that I got from Eileen Cook's With Malice.Though I think once I noticed this book cover and its byline caught my interest and made me curious. Especially the girl with her legs tucked under her chin. I wanted to know why she wanted to make herself look so small.

I did enjoy reading this book, I felt very drawn in and truly found myself both caring about what would happen to Hedda and at certain points of the book I felt I could identify with her thoughts and feelings around eating. As I was what some would call "naturally thin" when I was younger, everyone always tried to get me to eat "that bit more" and it used to make me not want to eat at all! I also lacked confidence and for example couldn't bring myself to eat my friends houses or even at boyfriends house, which caused endless problems. I could literally be physically sick and shake thinking about it! So I think I identified a lot with Hedda when she finally wants to eat but then finds that she just can't physically do it.

I do find the cover eye catching and somewhat unusual to others around at this time. When I read the blurb I was hooked. The title Countless is kind of something Hedda needs to do "count less". She counts every calorie, every mouthful or morsel she eats to please those round her. I adore the byline of "Love means holding on . . . .Love means letting go . . " Both these sentences fit very well in different parts of the book. 
I was intrigued by the small stick like figure sitting in a childlike pose on the cover, it looks very small compared to the the large tear shaped droplets all around her. I'd say this is how Hedda see's herself in comparison to her surroundings in her life. The actual illustration of the figure instantly brought the Mrs Pepperpot books written by Alf Proyson and illustrated by Bjorn Berg to my mind. I can totally identify with Hedda feeling so small and insignificant in the grander scheme of life around her.
I think I would most certainly pick this book up from a book store shelf to learn more about it, and then it would be a must buy and read once I'd read the blurb!

The genres listed for this book on Netgalley are General Fiction (Adult), and Teens & YA, the Goodreads listed genres are, Health and Mental Health. I would agree with these genres but personally believe the book is even more. First of all I would say anorexia is both a physical and mental health issue. I would add "relationships" as a genre, as there are many different, relationships featured in the book each with their own issues and problems. From Hedda's relationship with Nia, the name she gives her anorexia. To her relationship's with her parents, her younger sister and her neighbours that live either side of her little flat. The possible light at the end of the tunnel kind of almost naive budding relationship with Robin, that almost, but just doesn't quite blossom. Hedda's parents have their own issues, the state of their marriage, their relationship with Hedda and their other daughter Tamara. 
In my opinion a lot of the characters in this book seem to put a proportion of blame on Hedda's young and narrow shoulders, when they should maybe be looking inwards at themselves too.

I suppose I should give you a gist, or a basics of the book. . .Hedda is living in her own flat and attending counselling back at the out patient section unit she recently left. Hedda has had a long term issue with food. Hedda is anorexic, her mother has refused to have her back at the family home saying that Hedda is a bad influence on her younger and more favoured sister Tamara. Hedda attends the couselling because she has to, but that doesn't mean she has to really fully take part in them when she see's Felicity. Felicity does try her best to encourage Hedda to deal with her anorexia, and tries to get Hedda to open up about her feelings and reasons behind her actions. Hedda only begins to open up her head and heart when she becomes pregnant. Hedda decides she will eat for the sake of her unborn baby. Hedda cannot ignore or beat the voice of Nia for herself but for her baby she will fight Nia with everything she has. It is a lonely life for Hedda, with an angry and noisy male neighbour on one side, and then Robin moves in to the flat at the other side of Hedda's. The flats are basic and to begin with Hedda is more "existing" than living but with the persistence of Robin, the unquestioning and consistent support of Felicity Hedda's life does improve. 

Personally I think Hedda really does try to be everything to everyone in her life. It's no wonder she has nothing left for herself at the end of the day. Hedda believes she isn't worth the bother, but then when she becomes pregnant and responsible for another tiny new life she has to bother about herself and her own body as it has to both support and provide the correct nutrients for her baby. I loved the way she just knows she is having a girl. I adore the way Robin brings her white roses as his Grammy once told him they represent new beginnings. In fact it's a combination of Robin's gift and Hedda's other visitors at the time why her baby ends up being called Rose. I did honestly think from an earlier comment in the book that Hedda would call the baby Molly. I am so glad she didn't, she would have almost being set up her daughter to fail before she ever had a chance to try. 

Going back to the byline "Love means holding on . . . .Love means letting go . . " At certain parts of the book, Hedda is eating, not for herself but to stay well and feed her unborn child. Hedda is forcing herself to eat just enough, forcing herself to "hold on" for the sake of her unborn child that she already loves more than herself. Though she counts every morsel of food, making sure she eats the correct amount, no more and no less than needed for her unborn baby to thrive. Sadly towards the latter end of the book the second sentence of the by line "...Love means letting go . . ." is also something Hedda has to come to terms with and has to reach out for help which means letting go of the one thing/person in her life she loves and treasures the most. Hedda manages to look at her situation and decide to take the path of doing the greater good.

Of course I loved the character of Hedda and really did identify with her on a lot of levels. Her relationship with food, her need to please everyone else, her feelings that she has disappointed people in her life. I found Hedda a very believable and realistic character. I instantly warmed to Robin and saw him becoming a possible father to baby Rose at one point. Then along with Hedda we discover he has problems of his own. I'd like to think that maybe a year or two ahead in time that Robin and Hedda will be in a better place in their individual lives that perhaps they could come back together as a family unit with Rose.
I admit to becoming really angry with Hedda's parents. Hedda's father just leaves when the going gets tough and it isn't the first time he has done this which goes part way to explaining some of the emotional problems between Hedda and her mother. I was really shocked by the way he abandons his family, including Hedda who really needs him and his help. I felt both anger and sympathy for Hedda's mother, she was another character in the book who was holding a lot of emotions and problems inside, trying to single handedly put on a "good family" facade to the outside world.
I was pleased the way the relationship between Tamara and Hedda improved. It began rocky with the girls more or less ignoring each other to Tamara going to Hedda both for support for herself because of the marriage break up of their parents, and also Tamara enjoying being an auntie to Rose.
Other great characters I just have to mention were Vi, the lady at the food bank who later plays a larger part in Hedda's future, and Lois, a pregnant mum to be, that fate has Hedda cross paths with on more than one occasion.

As I was reading this book I found it really thought provoking. The issues it raised and how the book covered them had me asking myself asking more and more questions as well as wanting to ask the characters in the book why they were reacting the way they did. I'd say by the end of the book some of the questions were answered, others were left for you to ponder about. 

I found this book a very emotional and enlightening read and had misty eyes and shed quite a few tears towards the end. The difficult choices that Hedda has to make both about the welfare of her cherished baby Rose and her own health welfare too. I was so upset at the end of the book, I felt broken hearted for Hedda, Rose and their situation. The epilogue was a necessity after the "ending". I will be totally honest and state I would of hated the ending even though it was both a realistic, truthful and logical one. The epilogue gave the reader and the characters some hope of what could happen, it was the light at the end of the long journey through the darkened tunnel.

To stop me going on and on forever about this book, because I truly could. I feel my review has only touched on a very small portion of the contents and complexities contained in the book. So to finally sum up I have to add that I loved this book from the first page to the last, a very realistic and truthful look at anorexia, what it does to the person unable to eat along with the family and friends watching that person waste away. Enlightening, engrossing, and emotional.

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