How comfortable are you in your own skin? Have you ever thought about this question?
The book Skin by Elizabeth Reapy made me consider self-image, how we are with and in our bodies. We meet the main character Natalie, a millennial at dis-ease with herself, with the way in which her body carries her though life’s challenges.
She also has two big feet. Not literally.
She manages, in sensitive situations, to put her foot in it, nine times out of ten. We cringe with her and we appreciate her struggle as she reflects on her body, on her imperfections, on all the times she gets it wrong.
Yet, as readers, we see the in-between; the times Natalie is kind and considerate, the times she gets it right.
Skin is about how we view ourselves and our place in society, and how society impacts upon us, consciously and otherwise.
Ultimately, Skin made me feel uncomfortable.
There is a section of the book where Natalie eats to fill a void, to help deal with difficult emotions. She eats and eats, stuffing food into her body until she is in physical pain. This book shines a torch on how we treat bodies, treat people, treat ourselves. It made me consider what we prioritise in our lives.
Elizabeth Reapy is no stranger to the Irish fiction scene, writing on challenging topics for the millennial generation. She has won several awards for her work. Selected as Dublin UNESCO City of Literature Writer-in-Residence for 2017/18, and awarded the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature in September 2017. She has been shortlisted for the Hennessy New Irish Writing and the Kate O’Brien Award. Her first novel Red Dirt was released to critical acclaim.
Skin is her second novel.