Monday 12 August 2013

Book Review: In My Skin by Kate Holden

'Kate Holden is accustomed to being summed up at a glance: arts graduate, history buff, middle-class daughter, dreamer, innocent. But she is a young woman who understands better than most the secrets that people keep hidden. In My Skin follows her journey from her reputation as a 'good girl' in the safe and leafy suburbs of Melbourne to the all-consuming attractions of heroin and the sex industry. 

This is a story of survival and resourcefulness; an unflinching look at the consequences of addiction. Holden's journey leads her from a sheltered life in her loving family home to a world of sex for money - a seedy netherworld of back lanes, backseats and brothels. More than just a fearless and compelling narrative, In My Skin is a triumphant announcement of a major new literary talent.'

I read Kate Holden's In My Skin as part of the Australian Women Writers Challenge, and the Eclectic Reader Challenge which called for a 'memoir'. As the book's blurb says - this memoir shows off a new talent; I was blown away by Holden's phenomenal writing. I was pleasantly surprised to see such beautiful prose in a shocking story of heroin addiction and prostitution. It is obvious that even with all the hard times Holden has been through, her creative talent has found its way up out of the mess. She is a wonderful writer.

Holden was a normal Aussie girl, slightly shy, an avid reader who loved to write in her journal. That much I could easily relate to! In the first pages of the book I felt I was reading about my own childhood. But soon Holden's life would follow a path that mine didn't, and yet I never once lost my connection to Holden as a person. Throughout her story I could understand her motivations, even when she was making some questionable choices. I could see the artist in her.

Holden's story reads in part like a typical sink into drug addiction. She starting out trying heroin for the fun of it, but the drug soon took hold. Holden began to lose herself in her crippling addiction. What sets this story apart is its eloquent writing - Holden brings a writer's eye to her life which offers a different perspective on drug addiction and prostitution. Holden is able to see the beauty in the darkness that is her life, and this is portrayed on every page of her memoir. Even though her story is sad at times, it is still very touching to read.

Holden is open about her lack of confidence, so it wasn't too unbelievable that such a promising young woman would fall into drugs and prostitution. But what I wasn't prepared for was just how much the sex industry would actually save her. It was in the brothels of Melbourne that Holden found a sense of belonging, a belief in herself and the self-esteem she so craved.  

What I love best about Holden is her complete acceptance of her unconventional past. She doesn't hold shame about her life as a junkie or prostitute. I like her frankness and her ability to open herself up and tell the truth of who she is and what she's done. In My Skin is one of the best memoirs I've ever read and I was inspired by Holden - she managed to survive the downward spiral she was on and emerge from her shady experiences with her creative ability and self-acceptance intact. Despite the 'negative' subject matter this memoir is a story of empowerment. And it's beautifully written! A must read. 

1 comment:

  1. I have often thought about this book after reading it a couple of years ago. It is, as you say, beautifully written despite the very bleak subject matter. I admire her bravery.