If I’ve ever bought you a book as a present, loaned you a book or just recommended a book to you then there’s a good chance that it was ‘The Hours’ by Michael Cunningham. It is my favourite novel and I like to share it.
‘The Hours’ won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1999 and was adapted into a film starring Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore in 2002 so I suspect everyone is familiar with the story by now, even if they haven’t read the book.
Cunningham tells the story of three women who have all been affected, in some way, by Virginia Woolf’s ‘Mrs. Dalloway’.
There comes a time in most people’s life when they read a book that changes their outlook so profoundly that they want to thrust it into the arms of others and demand that they read it ASAP, for me that book is Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi.
Subtitled A Story of Loss and Gain, you know you’re in for a painful read from the get go but I wasn’t expecting it to be this heart wrenching, even after watching de Rossi’s interview on Oprah.
Opening with the revelation that she is regularly woken from her slumber by the voice inside her that continually asks ‘What did you eat last night?’, Unbearable Lightness dives straight into de Rossi’s life during the filming of Ally McBeal when her eating disorder really came to the fore.
de Rossi interweaves her early life with that of life in LA, from becoming a model at age 12, changing her name at 15 (she was born Amanda Lee Rogers), to landing her first acting role and the decision to drop out of law school to pursue acting in the US.
It’s all dealt with in simple but powerful prose directly from the eye of the storm because de Rossi decided to speak from the heart of the issue rather than as a healthy person looking back making it obvious what was going through her mind at any given point in time.
Inevitably this book also deals with de Rossi’s battle to accept her sexuality and it’d be hard to imagine not including this aspect because at certain times this struggle seems (to me at least,) to enable her to fall deeper into her eating disorder. By that I mean, it seems that she felt she couldn’t control one aspect of her life so turned all her attention to following a strict diet and exercise regime which spiralled out of control and led to both bulimia and anorexia.