Countless by Karen Gregory (British Books Challenge)


Heads up: the main character in Countless has an eating disorder, which I mention in my review.

I loved this book. It’s off my usual track – no dragons, witches or fantastical worlds here – but nevertheless I tore through it in two days.

Hedda is seventeen and is controlled by her anorexia, which she personalises as Nia. It’s taken away her home and her family, and it looks as though it might take her life too. Currently out of ‘the unit’, Hedda survives by counting everything: steps, calories, seconds. But then she discovers she is pregnant. Can she learn to love the tiny, unplanned baby she ends up with? Can she learn to love herself?

I was a bit nervous about reading a book dealing with anorexia, but the subject – and the sufferers we meet in the book – are treated with compassion and a wonderful delicacy of touch. The horrific effects of anorexia are not glossed over. But through Hedda’s eyes we see both sides of the story: the illusion of control and beauty as well as hair loss, passing out and so on. One of my favourite lines comes towards the end of the book, when Hedda is watching Laurel, another girl from the unit:

‘One minute I get a flash of her: slim, balletic, white. Control in motion. The next she’s a horrific walking skeleton. I don’t think either of us knows which one it is anymore.’

One of my favourite things about Countless was how well developed all the characters are. Not only Hedda and her family and Robbie, the boy next door, but the minor characters too.  Lois, for example, another new mum, and Molly, a friend of Hedda’s whom we only meet through her memories. I really cared about all of them.

Thanks to Karen and to Bloomsbury for sending me an early copy. Countless is published on 4th May.


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