Appetite by Anita Cassidy

Review published on February 3, 2018.

Appetite is the ideal title for this book. We have three protagonists here. David is a 14-year-old boy who is extremely overweight. He knows he overeats, he’s almost become a part of the settee that he spends so much time sat on, he hates himself, so why can’t he stop? Naomi is a woman in a rut. Her son, James, is David’s best friend. She loves her husband but wants, no needs, more. And Matthew is David’s science teacher. He likes his job but has an increasing feeling of not making any difference to anything. But the project that he sets for his class might just make a difference, to him and to at least one of his pupils.

I thought Appetite was a perfectly observed look at greed, desire, need, want. As someone with a poor relationship with food I found it very easy to empathise with David most of all, but I actually understood how each of them felt. Naomi’s appetite is for something more visceral than food. Hers is a desire to be wanted and this leads her to seek the adventure she craves away from home. Her sections were quite raw, quite animalistic. And I did like Matthew, a man who really could be one of those inspirational teachers. But David and James, I think, were my real favourite characters. For teenage boys, they were actually extremely likeable.

We follow the characters through around eight months of a year, from January to August. The changes they go through, the greater understandings of their needs. The author has done something clever here. She’s worked hunger and desire into a storyline that works incredibly well, and she’s showed it in different ways. I marked this passage which is about Naomi and her need to get back to the computer to talk to a man on there:

“It was the anticipation, the thrill of the forbidden, and she knew that the next morning, the moment she was up and in front of the computer, she would be back there, indulging again, binging and gorging on his words, feasting on his need for her, stuffing herself with it until she felt sick. Getting ready for the next time.”

I marked this because I thought it was a clever use of words that would normally be associated with food, but in fact they were used about Naomi’s need for a sexual fix. It just highlights that appetite is not just about food. Yet, this is the woman who says, about a friend she has just met for the first time in years and who has put on an enormous amount of weight:

“‘And, really, how hard is it to cut back? How hard is it to change habits? Bad habits?'”

It was ironic that she didn’t see the similarities with her own situation. And it’s so easy to judge, isn’t it?

At 470 pages, this is no lightweight of a book. But I didn’t want it to end. I found it thoroughly engrossing. It really hit the nail on the head for me – I ‘got’ it. It was one of those books that spoke to me personally in many ways. It tackles many issues in a non-issue making way, if that makes sense. It’s not a rant but a look at how a need for something can control your life. I found myself wishing there was somebody else who was reading it who I could chat to about it. It would be great for book groups as there is so much to discuss and debate.

The writing is superb, it made me think, it shocked me, it thrilled me. Cassidy’s writing is completely honest. It’s probably not for everybody, but this reader loved it.

Nicola Smith, Short Book and Scribes, 5/5

Appetite by Anita Cassidy
RedDoor Publishing Ltd 9781910453476 pbk Jan 2018

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