A Book Review That Isn’t, Really

I have a headache, and it’s all Kate Holden’s fault.

Despite the fact that I work on Saturdays, I was up until all hours last night, until I finally finished Holden’s recently published memoir, In My Skin. If you live in Australia and have been paying any attention at all to the literary bits of the media, you’ll know that In My Skin is about Holden’s battle with heroin addiction, and her experiences working as a prostitute on the streets of St Kilda and, later, in brothels around Melbourne.
I went to the chat event/book signing Readings held for her on Wednesday night, and was treated to a lively and interesting discussion. I also got my copy of the book signed, because I am a fangirl like that, and yammered at her for a while in my usual awkward yet over-enthusiastic way. It turns out (and I did actually know this before I met her), that we share an Internet friend; that would be Melissa, whom I like to refer to as my evil Floridian twin. Small freakin’ Internet.
Anyway, I know there’s been a lot of publicity and good stuff said about In My Skin, and I’m going to add to it. It’s a beautifully written book that doesn’t flinch away from its subject matter. In doing so, it can be quite confronting, but also enlightening. The desciptions of heroin and Holden’s descent into addiction are mesmerising. Several years ago I lost someone I cared about deeply to an overdose; it wasn’t completely unexpected after the repeated unsuccessful attempts at rehabilitation and the jail time for the B&E he’d taken up to support his addiction, but it still came as a shock. I understood he was addicted and had little control over it, but I’ve never understood fully the choices he made, how he could keep edging further and further into the abyss even as everyone who cared about him tried to pull him out. I still can’t say I fully understand, and while I’ve learned to deal with the grief I doubt I ever will, but Holden’s descriptions of use and addiction spoke to me in a way that glamourous images of drug use haven’t. I feel like, through reading In My Skin, I’ve finally got a little more of a sense of understanding and closure regarding my friend. It’s kind of nice, if you want to use “nice” as a synonym for “tears my heart out”. Which I do.
I’ve read a few memoirs penned by women in the sex industry (primarily but not solely prostitution memoirs), and Holden handles her subject matter with more grace and less apology than many. She comes across as honest and likeable, two rather good things for a autobiographer to be, and was like that in person, too. I am smitten. Told you I’m a fangirl.
So anyway, you’ve probably read a lot about how good this book is by now, and I am going confirm that by saying: buy ten zillion copies because it’s a great book and Kate Holden is really nice and stuff.
Oh yeah, you sure can tell I’ve been learning me how to English all these years, can’t you? Thank your lucky stars I’m not planning on pursuing a career as a literary critic.

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