Dietland (Book) Review

 

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It’s only the first few days of June and I think I’ve already found my book of the year.

I’m going to try to review this without giving much away because I think it’s a fun, dark and interesting look at society, feminism, revenge, beauty and self love, amongst other things – and I want people to read the hell out of it.

Dietland gives us a fat protagonist, Plum which is a treat to find in literature. Or at least, it’s less common to have a fat character presented in a positive light. This seems to be changing, however despite placing a lot of ‘fat main character’ books on my Amazon wish list recently, it still feels like a novelty.

That last statement might not be strictly accurate btw. I should say that I haven’t noticed main fat characters much in the books I’ve read but I would be open to recommendations on books that do feature them. As many as possible! Ones that aren’t the DUFF or end up having massive makeovers to deem themselves acceptable, obvs.

Alicia ‘Plum’ Kettle is deeply apologetic about the fact that she’s fat, so any change in this attitude is a way down the line. More than apologetic, she is obsessed in her quest to lose weight and become her real self – just ‘Alicia’.

Here in the current day, Plum fills a wardrobe with clothes she’ll wear when she’s skinny, when she’s had the stomach stapling surgery she’s booked in for and can finally transform into her true self. She’s been on a diet for most of her life and tends to stick to the safety of her immediate environment to avoid drawing attention to herself. Which doesn’t work really but hey ho.

She works for a big magazine, answering personal emails to her shithead boss, Dear Kitty, who doesn’t have the time to do it herself. Plum spends each day in the local cafe sending advice to ‘her girls’, on anything from self-harming to sexual abuse and life’s what it
is. Kind of in limbo until the real living begins – when she’s thin.

A quick aside from me: I love Plum because I’ve thought like her and I know a lot of people have and still do. I’ve tried to stop this damaging thought process and accept that how I look now is more than likely how I will always look. The concept that “Life begins” at a certain (and mostly impossible) point is incredibly sad.

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Photograph not mine

One seemingly ordinary day, Plum notices that she’s being followed by a dark-haired girl who appears to be making notes about her in a journal. She’s used to comments and people taking her picture on the street but somehow senses this is different.

Little does Plum know that her stalker is about to change her life completely and in the most dramatic way possible.

Running alongside Plum’s ‘rebirth’ is news of a  feminist terrorist organisation named by the media as “Jennifer”, who are committing violent acts of retribution against rapists and abusers, as well as major media outlets and the porn industry.

Sweet and fluffy this book is not and I love it all the more for that. There are horrific descriptions of some of the acts, by both the terrorists and those they are carrying out revenge against. It doesn’t shy away from rape culture and it’s powerful stuff.

Plum’s story is wonderfully empowering and I actually love her. I feel like in many ways she is me, she is every woman and when she starts to figure out where she belongs in this world and begins to enjoy the space she takes up, I may have whooped.

I also love many of the supporting characters who open Plum’s eyes to the all the bullshit out there, without too much personal judgement. Plum undergoes such a transformation by the time you reach the last page that I think it would be impossible not to feel happy for her – and it probably won’t be in the way you’re expecting.

Does Plum undergo the weightloss surgery she’s so focussed on, and start that brand new life that’s been waiting for her since she was a teenager?

And the question you’ll no doubt be asking yourselves: what has the mysterious “Jennifer” got to do with Plum, if anything at all? Find out by picking this book up ASAP.

My Thoughts:

You may not agree with everything that takes place within this book but I think for the most part, any woman can identify with the exhausting notion that we have to look and be a certain way to be deemed acceptable by society.

The issue here is not just fat but beauty on the whole – from the tips of our toes to the roots of our hair. And beyond beauty, there’s an interesting comment on the porn industry that made me think a lot more about it.

I find stories like this empowering while others may not and that’s okay but I think the story fits in a lot with the way I’ve been viewing myself over the last year which might be why it resonates so. I’m learning that I don’t have to be sorry for anything, let alone the amount of space I occupy.

I really just want to read this all over again.

Book details:

Dietland
Publisher: Atlantic Books; Main edition (5 May 2016)
ISBN-10: 1782399291
ISBN-13: 978-1782399292
Bought paperback (new)

If you read this book, or anything similar, please let me know. I’m always up for a good recommendation ❤

11 thoughts on “Dietland (Book) Review

  1. Hi Christa, I’ve been reading almost exclusively graphic novels for a few months now, not necessarily a bad thing but I feel the need to get back into novels. I have Kate Atkinson (all time favourite) A God in Ruins on the bedside table (well, teetering pile of graphic novels and sheet music that serves as such) but I keep picking it up and putting it down again. And I’m halfway through The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett but I got a bit disenchanted with the main protagonists… I seem to have the attention span of a gnat. Can you recommend something that will revive my reading romance? I am a genre whore, hopping merrily from Sci fi’s clutches to Crime’s and on to Romance. All comers considered. Phnarr phnarr. Jo xxx

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    1. Hi Jo, I love this comment, love talking books at all times. I am also a graphic novel fiend, I love Preacher, Y the Last Man, anything really with strong writing and good illustration! Let me think about this one because I have loads of recommendations! It sounds like you’ve got eclectic taste. I love Kate Atkinson a lot but I’ve not read her last few so A God in Ruins is still on my list. I met her at a signing once, I was in love with Human Croquet. Thanks for mentioning those books, I’ll look into them and get some recs for you! xo

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      1. Thank you! The Jackson Brodie novels are my favourites, he’s just such a great character, loveably flawed and once be rescues and gets stuck with the dog he was my all time hero. I think Atkinson’s plotting is second to none, she’s one of only a few writers who makes me gasp in admiration at her sheer inventiveness and ingenuity. Human Croquet was just wonderful too and I recommended Behind the Scenes at the Museum to my bookgroup a few years back. Alarmingly one person said it had psychologically scarred her to read it but I was enchanted. Grit, a touch of magic realism, humour, strong women. What’s not to love.

        I’ve read two Y collections, not sure if that’s up to date? Love it! Hilariously goes against the idea that women, left to our own devices, would run the world as a giant peace-festival.
        I’m also hooked on Saga, Outcast, Paper Girl, Bitch Planet (I think you’d like this) and Wolf. We’ve looked at Preacher but haven’t bought it yet. Worth it? Mahmut my o/h draws comics too so the art work really matters to him, the writing more so for me. Ooh also want to read the Rivers of London graphic novels as I LOVE the books. Xxx

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      2. I love Jackson Brodie! Behind the Scenes was wonderful, I was in love with that too. Enchanting is such a good word to describe it and her style of writing.

        I’m a bit ashamed but I thought I’d finished Y and it seems it carried on without me. I will have to pick it up again! Also, Bitch Planet has been recommended to me by my blogging partner and I just picked it up when I was in town, so I’ll let you know! I also got one called Beauty which seems to be able the unrealistic ideals of beauty and an STD that makes its carrier more and more beautiful as it progresses! Thought that synopsis deserved my attention. I’ll put Paper Girl on my list. My husband is bang into Saga so I know that should be looked into. I do love Preacher a lot, I’m not sure how it stands up but I remember being very into it, they’ve made it into a show and I’m not that impressed so far. I also love Fables and of course Sandman!

        Recommendations: Ready Player One (sci fi ish), Station Eleven (post apocalyptic), You (thriller), Dietland (general badass-ery)! I also love a writer called Marisha Pessl who wrote an amazing crime novel called Night Film which is a must if you like film mans Special Topics in Calamity Physics which was glorious and a bit of a mystery. That’s my taste anyway, I love so much but crime and thriller is my favourite xoxo

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      3. Thanks so much! I ‘m excited to have a look at all of those. We’re going to Bath for a few days this week and I plan some serious browsing. I’ll have your list with me! I have read about the first four or five singles of Beauty. It was good but I was reading so many different singles it was getting expensive so let that one lapse until the collection was published. It was good though, as you say, great concept. Be interesting to know what you think. My husband buys me Constantine and Sandman too. The most recent Sandman series is incredibly beautifully drawn and coloured. Do you read Wonderwoman at all? It’s been recommended to me. I finally knuckled down and read more of The Versions of Us which is actually fairly absorbing and I will probably finish it in the next day or two. I’m also reading a non fiction book by a neurologist, about psychosomatic illness; totally fascinating. Do you read more than one thing at a time? I’m not a big non fiction reader generally but we read Dr Henry Marsh’s book at my book group and it was such an amazing insight into the world of medicine, the NHS, clinical choices and moral conundrums, I was hooked. Do you ‘do’ non fiction? J xxx

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