Breath in the Dark, a Childhood Lost

Author: Jane Hersey

Date Of Publication: 03/10/2012

Breath in the Dark is a simply told, yet incredibly powerful, autobiographical story written from the perspective of a socially isolated child, in the depths of poverty, caring for her mother who is struggling with mental and physical health problems. Written predominantly to highlight the desperate struggle and impact that young carers face, it also touches on issues such as binge eating disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, depression and a reliance on prescription drugs.

The beauty of the book is that the reader can get a real sense of the way mental health issues can spiral out of control and be perpetuated by the ignorance of those around someone struggling. The subsequent shame, isolation and worthlessness that is felt is also explored, and from an eating disorder perspective Breath in the Dark gives the reader a real understanding of what might drive a person to binge eat - the feelings of emotional hunger, an emptiness and inner coldness that can only temporarily be satisfied, filled or warmed by food.

You cannot help but ‘root’ for the narrator, and in addition to feeling anger and frustration towards the way the ‘system’ seems to have failed this fragmented family, it manages to evoke a number of different emotions in the reader. Although the book is set in the 1960s so much of the stigma, hardship and desperation is still very much relevant in today’s society.

In summary, Breath in the Dark tackles some very difficult and emotive issues in a simplistic way, which really enables the reader to focus upon the devastating impact that unsupported mental health issues can have on a family.

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