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Beauty

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A powerful meditation on beauty and body image from the author of Eggshell Skull. You were either fit and trim or you weren't working hard enough. Your body was how you conveyed wealth and status to your peers, it was a personality trait, a symbol of goodness and values: an ethical ideal. In recent decades women have made momentous progress fighting the patriarchy, yet they A powerful meditation on beauty and body image from the author of Eggshell Skull. You were either fit and trim or you weren't working hard enough. Your body was how you conveyed wealth and status to your peers, it was a personality trait, a symbol of goodness and values: an ethical ideal. In recent decades women have made momentous progress fighting the patriarchy, yet they are held to ever-stricter, more punishing physical standards. Self-worth still plummets and eating disorders are more deadly for how easily they are dismissed. In Beauty Bri Lee explores our obsession with thinness and asks how an intrinsically unattainable standard of physical 'perfection' has become so crucial to so many. What happens if you try to reach that impossible goal? Bri did try, and Beauty is what she learned from that battle: a gripping and intelligent rejection of an ideal that diminishes us all.


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A powerful meditation on beauty and body image from the author of Eggshell Skull. You were either fit and trim or you weren't working hard enough. Your body was how you conveyed wealth and status to your peers, it was a personality trait, a symbol of goodness and values: an ethical ideal. In recent decades women have made momentous progress fighting the patriarchy, yet they A powerful meditation on beauty and body image from the author of Eggshell Skull. You were either fit and trim or you weren't working hard enough. Your body was how you conveyed wealth and status to your peers, it was a personality trait, a symbol of goodness and values: an ethical ideal. In recent decades women have made momentous progress fighting the patriarchy, yet they are held to ever-stricter, more punishing physical standards. Self-worth still plummets and eating disorders are more deadly for how easily they are dismissed. In Beauty Bri Lee explores our obsession with thinness and asks how an intrinsically unattainable standard of physical 'perfection' has become so crucial to so many. What happens if you try to reach that impossible goal? Bri did try, and Beauty is what she learned from that battle: a gripping and intelligent rejection of an ideal that diminishes us all.

30 review for Beauty

  1. 5 out of 5

    Emily (em_isreading)

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I hadn’t planned on reviewing this, because frankly I didn’t love it. But I think a conversation around the finer points and missed opportunities of this essay is important, so I would like to contribute to that. I would have appreciated if Lee had written from an acknowledgement of her immense beauty privilege. Understandably, she has her own issues to deal with in this space. But at no point is there an in-depth acknowledgement of her white, able-bodied, straight, gender representation. There I hadn’t planned on reviewing this, because frankly I didn’t love it. But I think a conversation around the finer points and missed opportunities of this essay is important, so I would like to contribute to that. I would have appreciated if Lee had written from an acknowledgement of her immense beauty privilege. Understandably, she has her own issues to deal with in this space. But at no point is there an in-depth acknowledgement of her white, able-bodied, straight, gender representation. There are a few thoughts thrown in on African-American women and the politics of hair, but it feels like an afterthought rather than something that was in the original thought process of the essay. As an Australian writer, a perspective on our own indigenous women would have been more fitting. I would have preferred her to be the editor of a collection of essays on Beauty, with poc, trans, fat, disabled and other diverse voices speaking for themselves. Without a thought I can name 4-5 authors who would have been excellent contributors to an anthology piece (Carly Findlay, Claire G Coleman, Nakkiah Lui among others) Additionally, the essay is really only an exploration of thinness as beauty and not everything else. Beauty is a broad topic, and it is difficult for one person and her experience to cover everything that comes under that topic. Lee has never lived in a fat, black, disabled, trans, gay, or other body. She can’t know that experience. But she can speak to and give platform for those who have lived that experience, and are able to share that experience. All this said, the discussion around thinness and beauty, and the pressures or social media and wider society on women and young girls is an important discussion to have. Lee tells her experience with mental illness and disordered eating with brevity and insight beyond her years. The essay is hugely personal, brave, reflective and seemingly cathartic. I hope it gave Lee the strength I felt she was looking for at the end of Eggshell Skull. I’d be keen to reread upon final release, in the hopes that some of this is addressed. Thanks to my lovely local indie bookshop for the ARC in exchange for my thoughts.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    *thank you to Allen & Unwin for an ARC of this book* 4 stars. Such an interesting little book. Written as an essay, Bri Lee invites us into her mind and her experiences. Written with full honesty from her personal experiences this is one of those books that will give insight and hopefully turn you away from the world of distorted eating and the like. I absolutely love this cover and the size of the book (small square shape) makes it quite cute.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews

    *https://mrsbbookreviews.wordpress.com These are some of the arresting opening words offered by Bri Lee, the author of Beauty. Following on from Eggshell Skull, Beauty is an accompaniment to Eggshell Skull, but it can be read independent of its predecessor. Beauty is a book that I feel is much needed, almost vital. It opens up a discussion around the construction of beauty and body image. Relevant, timely and topical, Beauty is an essential read. Beauty is a 150 page essay style formatted book *https://mrsbbookreviews.wordpress.com These are some of the arresting opening words offered by Bri Lee, the author of Beauty. Following on from Eggshell Skull, Beauty is an accompaniment to Eggshell Skull, but it can be read independent of its predecessor. Beauty is a book that I feel is much needed, almost vital. It opens up a discussion around the construction of beauty and body image. Relevant, timely and topical, Beauty is an essential read. Beauty is a 150 page essay style formatted book that looks at our ideas of what lies at the heart of beauty. It is being fit and trim? It is feeling good inside? In Beauty, Bri Lee discusses body image in relation to status and wealth. She poses an important question, what is the ideal construction of beauty and body image? In this process, Bri Lee draws on her own experiences, and she ties in academic discourse around this tenuous subject matter. Within Beauty, Lee examines societal attitudes towards physical beauty standards. Lee also raises our attention to the rise in eating disorders, self-harm and mental illness in relation to punishing body image ideals. A critical examination into today’s quest for thinness, and the fact that this goal is far out of reach for so many women is considered within the pages of Beauty. The most profound realisation of Beauty is the need to reject these unattainable ideals before they diminish us. I don’t often read or come across essay style books, but I appreciated Beauty, a 2019 Allen and Unwin publication from the acclaimed author of Eggshell Skull, Bri Lee. In the Acknowledgements section of Beauty, Bri Lee reveals that this essay was written as part of her MPhil in Creative Writing. Lee has received generous support on the way to publishing this book, which she graciously acknowledges. I feel that Beauty is a crucial and indispensable text, that should be read widely. I do hope that Beauty is circulated to both young and mature women, as well as men. It is a brief book size wise, but the brevity of the words and subject matter are profound. I am in complete awe of Bri Lee after reading her previous book and memoir, Eggshell Skull. Beauty is a book that I feel is connected to Eggshell Skull, as some of the experiences Lee highlights in Beauty were also a part of the Eggshell Skull journey. However, Lee takes these experiences one step further and discusses the next stage of her life. The public scrutiny on her following the release of Eggshell Skull had a detrimental effect on Lee. This intense focus resulted in feelings of inadequacy in regards to body image, and it was the catalyst for Lee’s eating disorder, along with her gruelling diet routines. I could sympathise and relate to Lee a great deal. The honest, frank and often raw tone to this book holds significant emotional impact. Beauty is a powerful book that says so much in a compact format. Each word seems to hold great weight and Lee is on point the whole way through this book. Beauty casts a critical eye on our concept or beauty, as well as society’s construction of body image ideals. Drawing in academic discourse, the influence of social media and personal experiences, Lee’s book is timely and much needed. For me personally, Beauty presented an awakening experience, it enabled me to think critically about the way I view myself, my own opinions in relation to beauty and my expectations in relation to body image. This is a difficult topic, but Lee is brave and vehement in her approach, it is breath of fresh air! I was particularly moved by this quote from Lee in the latter stages of Beauty’s journey. ‘I am beautiful at any weight, and me beauty isn’t what defines me anyway.’ Our relationship to beauty and body image has, is, and will continue to be precarious. Beauty by Bri Lee fills in the gaps so to speak, this book well and truly launches an open discourse on these vital topics, that bears significant weight on how we function in everyday life. Beauty is stimulating and highly recommended reading for all. *Thanks extended to Allen & Unwin for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes. Beauty is book #140 of the 2019 Australian Women Writers Challenge

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ely

    This was never going to overtake Eggshell Skull for me, and I went in knowing this but I was still a little disappointed by this at the beginning. I think it's best to go into this knowing it's a very limited discussion on the idea of 'beauty'. In fact, it could've just been titled 'Thin'. There were so many places I would've loved to have seen a mention to disability, but this is really Bri's personal experiences. But the latter half bought back similar feelings I had towards the end of This was never going to overtake Eggshell Skull for me, and I went in knowing this but I was still a little disappointed by this at the beginning. I think it's best to go into this knowing it's a very limited discussion on the idea of 'beauty'. In fact, it could've just been titled 'Thin'. There were so many places I would've loved to have seen a mention to disability, but this is really Bri's personal experiences. But the latter half bought back similar feelings I had towards the end of Eggshell Skull—hope, empowerment and awe.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jaclyn (sixminutesforme)

    I found this to be a very impactful read but very much felt it was coming from two very different angles. As a memoir/personal essay about Lee’s own disordered eating and about her personal response to the publication of her book, EGGSHELL SKULL, this was fascinating and moving and vulnerable. Hearing her experiences and mindset during the press tour for her book, and media photoshoots, and the outpouring of personal reactions people shared with her was really eye-opening to read. I’m not sure I found this to be a very impactful read but very much felt it was coming from two very different angles. As a memoir/personal essay about Lee’s own disordered eating and about her personal response to the publication of her book, EGGSHELL SKULL, this was fascinating and moving and vulnerable. Hearing her experiences and mindset during the press tour for her book, and media photoshoots, and the outpouring of personal reactions people shared with her was really eye-opening to read. I’m not sure as readers that we often think of how a book, particularly one with memoir content, travels in the world, and how the author’s experience “lives on” in that sense. That aspect was five stars. . For me what let the overall essay down was the broader context discussion on beauty standards - I felt they could have been more intersectional and covered more ground beyond what is largely a privileged and white perspective. Lee went there at times, and I felt she was on the precipice of getting there with some of her discussions, but ultimately felt this would have benefited from a bit more extensive engagement with the topic. Lee is one of my favorite emerging writers in Australia and I guess I just wanted more from this - I was excited to hear on the Better Words podcast interview with Lee that a companion essay, BRAINS, is on the way in 2020! This is still a read I’d recommend, but one I’d perhaps read as a companion with other texts (THICK by Tressie McMillan Cottom is one that comes to mind).

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sharah McConville

    3.5 Stars. Beauty by Bri Lee is her second Non-Fiction novel. I found this essay a bit depressing but also very personal. It made me glad that I no longer diet, exercise to the extreme or obsess over my weight, like I did for almost 20 years. Now I feel like I have more important things to focus on, even though I'm no longer thin, and feel like I'm a better role model to my teenage daughter. Thanks to Allen & Unwin for my ARC.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Courtney

    I can't remember when I figured out it was all bullshit. That's not to say I'm not immune to it. But I figured it was bullshit. It? It's beauty. What is beauty? It's unquantifiable when it comes to art, all in the eye of the beholder. And yet as women we exist in a world where there are very narrow idea of what is beautiful. It's thin, it's white, it's primped and plucked and photoshopped and it's sold sold sold to you. It's sold to you in the way the woman advertising "female" razors are already I can't remember when I figured out it was all bullshit. That's not to say I'm not immune to it. But I figured it was bullshit. It? It's beauty. What is beauty? It's unquantifiable when it comes to art, all in the eye of the beholder. And yet as women we exist in a world where there are very narrow idea of what is beautiful. It's thin, it's white, it's primped and plucked and photoshopped and it's sold sold sold to you. It's sold to you in the way the woman advertising "female" razors are already hairless in all the right places. It's make up and photoshop on "natural" faces. It's clothes that always fit the model but never quite fit you properly. In my teenage years it was waif thin and heroine chic. Now it's the Instagram artificial kardashian curves. In the time of internet instant access women are even more vulnerable to internalise these messages. To obsess over numbers and count calories and focus on goals that are unattainable and a lot of the time, frankly unhealthy. Bri Lee dives into the pressure she felt as her memoir, the amazing Eggshell Skull: A Memoir About Standing Up, Speaking Out and Fighting Back was about to be published. The whirl of PR and photoshoots in which she wants to show the very best version of herself. But what is the very best version of herself? Is it really the self that restricts food intake so much that she feels lightheaded? The essay of Beauty is mostly brief but offers some great insights and probably is accessible enough to introduce to teens. In the current climate it's probably something that needs to be repeated and read.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Natasha (jouljet)

    An essay on beauty which really reads like Bri Lee's processing of the disordered eating and mental ill health she revealed to herself and the world in Eggshell Skull. This is Bri's examination of the internal battles she has experienced around her own self image and the intertwined concept of beauty, rather than an all encompassing review of "Beauty" in today's world. Bri's research and her own truth sharing is engaging and interesting. Reflections on older texts like The Beauty Myth, and An essay on beauty which really reads like Bri Lee's processing of the disordered eating and mental ill health she revealed to herself and the world in Eggshell Skull. This is Bri's examination of the internal battles she has experienced around her own self image and the intertwined concept of beauty, rather than an all encompassing review of "Beauty" in today's world. Bri's research and her own truth sharing is engaging and interesting. Reflections on older texts like The Beauty Myth, and today's social media influence are compelling and strong reminders for those of us who have read those. But the first half, to me, lacked the insight into white middle-class privileged platform, and the intersectionality I had expected of such an examination on beauty standards. One of the points of revelation for Bri came from the privilege of having been asked to sit for a photoshoot for a glamorous magazine, where she could pick the designer she could wear - these opportunities are not afforded to all published writers, nor successful women in their professional field. Bri's own beauty privilege, albeit acknowledging her disordered eating struggles, is not discussed (although she did mention at her book launch I attended). The mental health clinician in me wonders if this essay is Bri laying out these thoughts and raw truths, and discussions of change in her own behaviour, as a record of progress. A way to keep herself accountable. I hope this means she continues to work, and examine and get the support she needs around these damaging self talk. This was an interesting read after reading Clare Bowditch's Your Own Kind Of Girl - opposite ends of the body image self talk. I felt like I want to get Clare's book to Bri, for all the tools it shares about overcoming the destructive internal voice. I know Bri is thinking of writing a similar examination on Brains, based again on the book launch conversations, and thus I hope she can find ways to expand her thoughts and research further, to perhaps an essay collection.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Nic

    Once again, Bri Lee has written a brilliantly thought-provoking book. It’s quite different to Eggshell Skull, because this one is in essay form, and so doesn’t have the narrative structure like Eggshell Skull (just in case you were expecting that). I found it so interesting to read about a topic that has pervaded society so widely. I found it really eye opening to hear a beautiful woman talk so openly about how she has always felt pressure to be a certain shape and has gone through periods where Once again, Bri Lee has written a brilliantly thought-provoking book. It’s quite different to Eggshell Skull, because this one is in essay form, and so doesn’t have the narrative structure like Eggshell Skull (just in case you were expecting that). I found it so interesting to read about a topic that has pervaded society so widely. I found it really eye opening to hear a beautiful woman talk so openly about how she has always felt pressure to be a certain shape and has gone through periods where she’s disgusted with her own body. I’ve been through this, and I’m pretty sure nearly every woman reading this has had these destructive self-loathing thoughts. It was actually quite comforting to know that even Bri Lee, a woman I respect and admire, has had these thought patterns, and I’m not alone. I especially loved the part where Bri said she has stopped telling women who look nice “Have you lost weight?” or “Have you been working out?” Instead, she says “I love your style”. Even this little change in our language is really impactful, and I’m going to take up this change in my language too. Society still has a long way to come, but having books like this encouraging women to question these beauty standards is the first step.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Hills

    TL;DR: Proceed with caution with this book if you have any sensitivities regarding weight/size/body image. "Any plan I made had to begin with a severing of that second, aspirational self, but how to drive Bri 2.0 out into the desert without feeling like a complete failure? To remove the potential for an 'after' photo I needed to accept the 'before' photo as the sole source of my self-esteem and identity." Bri Lee is a beautiful writer, and the final third of this book (from which the above quote TL;DR: Proceed with caution with this book if you have any sensitivities regarding weight/size/body image. "Any plan I made had to begin with a severing of that second, aspirational self, but how to drive Bri 2.0 out into the desert without feeling like a complete failure? To remove the potential for an 'after' photo I needed to accept the 'before' photo as the sole source of my self-esteem and identity." Bri Lee is a beautiful writer, and the final third of this book (from which the above quote is lifted) is full of powerful insight, but as someone who - like Lee - has suffered from eating disorders, I found 'Beauty' far more triggering than I anticipated. In particular, I wish she hadn't enumerated her weight throughout the book. On pages 4-5, Lee lists her current weight ("smack bang in the middle of the 'normal' BMI range [but to] a determined young woman with dreams bigger than Brisbane, 'normal' wasn't great"), her aspirational/"skinny" weight, and her highest ("fat"?) weight, at which "my breasts had practically tumbled out of the cups of my bras because I refused to buy bigger ones and therefore accept my size." In the eating disorder community, it's well established that enumerating weights invites comparison and competition (if a weight is named as thin, we - ie, people with predispositions to eating disorders - catalog it in our brains as desirable, if it is named as a number from which a person wants to lose weight, we wonder if we too need to be thinner), and as a brilliant, thoughtful young woman with a history of eating disorders, it was surprising to me that Lee did this. (See 'How To Disappear Completely' by Kelsey Osgood for an example of an eating disorder memoir that tackles these complications.) It's possible that this book may only be triggering to people who have or have had eating disorders - I haven't noticed any mention of my concerns on the other reviews I've seen on Goodreads. But the numbers and concerns Lee talks about are so typical and quotidian (indeed, it is the quotidian nature of women's self-starvation that makes the book important) that it is easy to imagine a young woman who shares Lee's perfectly slim and unremarkable weight and height reading the book and deciding to eat less tomorrow - just as I, a 30-something woman who has mostly recovered from their 20-something eating disorder, read about Bri's weight loss efforts and wondered if I wasn't failing myself by (mostly) accepting myself as I am rather than strictly minimising my food intake. I "get" that the parts of the book I found triggering are a partly function of spending time inside the brain of someone with an eating disorder. (Although I still wish Lee hadn't enumerated her weight the way she did. Especially coming so early in the book, it was jarring.) And as I said above, the book does take a turn towards the end - I took some useful and empowering insights away from it. And yet I wonder what the cumulative impact is when both Lee and I as a reader spent two thirds of the book trapped in self-loathing, and trapped in the idea that thinner is better, only to emerge to alternate possibilities at the very end.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Melita

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I found this a little disappointing and was hoping for a bit more depth, new ideas and feminist oomph. I feel that the structure of the essay was a little off. For me, there was way too much focus and time spent on the period in which the author conformed willingly to upholding patriarchal beauty standards. It would have been both more empowering and informative to cover a little less of this period of her journey and instead focus more on her journey out of it. This focus on adhering to I found this a little disappointing and was hoping for a bit more depth, new ideas and feminist oomph. I feel that the structure of the essay was a little off. For me, there was way too much focus and time spent on the period in which the author conformed willingly to upholding patriarchal beauty standards. It would have been both more empowering and informative to cover a little less of this period of her journey and instead focus more on her journey out of it. This focus on adhering to patriarchal norms really got me off side, and while I have empathy for her struggle, I found the first half of the book quite annoying. As a feminist who has done the hard work on subverting such beliefs in myself over decades, I couldn't understand the author's seemingly blind faith in such notions, especially as a self-professed feminist. This is really an extended essay and reads as such, offering only a brief survey of some of the literature on beauty and body image. I wanted more depth and more original concepts.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kimbofo

    Beauty is essentially a long-form essay, which was initially written as part of the author’s MPhil in Creative Writing at the University of Queensland, and has since been published by Allen & Unwin in an attractive small-format book with a striking cover image (the painting is by artist Loribelle Spirovski) and French flaps. It focuses primarily on body image and the ways in which young women are conditioned to think that being thin is the only route to happiness and acceptance. It charts Lee Beauty is essentially a long-form essay, which was initially written as part of the author’s MPhil in Creative Writing at the University of Queensland, and has since been published by Allen & Unwin in an attractive small-format book with a striking cover image (the painting is by artist Loribelle Spirovski) and French flaps. It focuses primarily on body image and the ways in which young women are conditioned to think that being thin is the only route to happiness and acceptance. It charts Lee’s own struggles with body dysmorphia and eating disorders (topics she also addressed in Eggshell Skull) and examines how her own obsession with thinness has eaten away (no pun intended) at her self-esteem and self-worth. These issues may not be new, but Lee’s book is the first I’ve read that focuses on how the obsession with thinness as a beauty ideal has worsened in recent times thanks to the influence of social media. She talks about the need to be “photo-ready” at every minute of the day because camera phones are so prevalent. To read the rest of my review, please visit my blog.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ashleigh

    I REALLY want to love this book because I love the work that Bri Lee is doing, her writing, her speaking and advocacy. I felt like this essay just scratches the surface of such a monumental topic; a topic I feel deserves more room than what is given here. I agree with other reviewers suggesting that this essay would be better placed in a collection, rather than a stand alone piece. Whilst at times this essay is deeply personal (which is one of the reasons why I love Bri's work) it also cites I REALLY want to love this book because I love the work that Bri Lee is doing, her writing, her speaking and advocacy. I felt like this essay just scratches the surface of such a monumental topic; a topic I feel deserves more room than what is given here. I agree with other reviewers suggesting that this essay would be better placed in a collection, rather than a stand alone piece. Whilst at times this essay is deeply personal (which is one of the reasons why I love Bri's work) it also cites other texts constantly and I felt that it was overdone. I also feel like Bri has really left out her own privilege in this essay. She fleetingly mentions how she doesn't want emerging authors to feel pressured to do 'body work' in order to make more book sales, in a way that she has used her face publicly to build a brand. However, isn't that the crux of this topic? This essay examines her self-image as a response to the success she is experiencing following the release of Eggshell Skull, but what about success as a response to her image? How has her image influenced her success? This whole conversation was absent in the essay, which for me, was a huge miss.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Julia Tutt

    It felt like I tabbed every second page of this essay, Bri Lee doesn't muck about when she wants to write about something. She does it at 110% effort and 200% skill. I'll be shoving this down everyone's throats come November, male and female alike.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ruth

    I have so many wonderful things to say about this essay I'm not sure where to start without stealing the author's thunder. It's brilliant and personal and fierce. Read it. Now.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Elsie

    Ouch, very hard to read. Huge trigger warning for anyone who has suffered from disordered eating and especially bulimia. Hit heavy. But ultimately optimistic.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    "To remove the potential for an 'after' photo I needed to accept the 'before' photo as the sole source of my self-esteem and identity... The beast that truly needed beating was the one I imagined, not the one I was." This book is more an extended essay about the 'beauty ideal' and Lee's relationship to it. Lee discusses her own journey with body image and eating disorders as well as encouraging reader to step away from societal constructs of ideal physicality and towards self acceptance and truly "To remove the potential for an 'after' photo I needed to accept the 'before' photo as the sole source of my self-esteem and identity... The beast that truly needed beating was the one I imagined, not the one I was." This book is more an extended essay about the 'beauty ideal' and Lee's relationship to it. Lee discusses her own journey with body image and eating disorders as well as encouraging reader to step away from societal constructs of ideal physicality and towards self acceptance and truly love ourselves. "If we feel even slightly or subconsciously ashamed of parts of our bodies, if they are alien to us and not what we want, it is striking how much more abuse of them we will accept." Lee focuses on her own lived experiences and bares some of her own destructive thoughts. To be brutally honest, I did feel that it jumped around a lot, with some repetition (in an already slim book) and parts that could have used a further edit. That said, whilst her own experience may not be universal, I found her honesty refreshing and it encouraged me to reflect on my own journey with body acceptance and acknowledge some parallels. "On control, perfectionism, and eating habits, he [Storr] found that: 'When people are having perfectionist thoughts, they're wanting to feel that they're in control of their mission of being the great person they imagine they ought to be.'" I would not classify myself as someone who has ever had an eating disorder, but I have very much struggled with body image and having a healthy attitude to my weight. Lee reference's the "'One Stone Solution' where women often believe if they could simply lose around 6 kilograms they would be 'their ideal self.'" This is definitely a disbelief I've held over the years, even when I was over 20 kilos lighter than I am now. I can't honestly recall a time when I was not dissatisfied with my body. Humans are hardwired to want to continually strive for more and to be better; our discontent being a positive thing in so many areas but can be disastrous when applied to poor body image. "Actually, everyone should be allowed to be as low-maintenance as they please. We will never stop recognising 'beauty' in all its varying forms, and nor should we, because true conceptions of beauty celebrate our individuality and choices of expression, but we can stop the halo effect if we truly want to... We must tear down the guard, not the other prisoners." The biggest takeaway from this read is that our self worth shouldn't be wrapped up in a number or alignment with society's manufactured ideals. Any book that supports true self love is one that I'm happy to recommend.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Hayley (meet_me_at_the_library)

    I highly recommend this book. It’s an incredibly powerful read, so relatable and told with such vulnerability. You’ll feel a whole range of emotions while reading it—anger, frustration and helplessness to name a few. But don’t let that put you off, this is something we need to be talking about. It’s a sad truth that women are held to a much higher standard of beauty than men. From a very early age, we are subjected to images in the media etc that lead us to believe that physical perfection is not I highly recommend this book. It’s an incredibly powerful read, so relatable and told with such vulnerability. You’ll feel a whole range of emotions while reading it—anger, frustration and helplessness to name a few. But don’t let that put you off, this is something we need to be talking about. It’s a sad truth that women are held to a much higher standard of beauty than men. From a very early age, we are subjected to images in the media etc that lead us to believe that physical perfection is not only attainable, but something we should all be aspiring to. As a result, so much of our self worth is tied to our physical appearance. But, since perfection is unachievable, we constantly feel as though we don’t measure up, that we are unworthy of happiness if we aren’t able to meet these impossible standards. It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that if we just put a bit more effort in we can become skinnier and/or prettier, and then we’ll be happier. But this is a dangerous way of thinking and it often leads to unhealthy obsessions and serious eating disorders. We need to redefine beauty and seriously reconsider the messages we are sending to women and girls. Let’s make normal the norm! Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from Allen & Unwin in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Rosie Hunt

    This essay touched on some really interesting points, like the attachment of morality to thinness and the insidiousness of Instagram. But it only touched on them, which is why I think it would have worked better as a longer piece. I also wanted a closer examination of whiteness as a factor in society’s ideal of beauty. Some sharp writing but I think it was ultimately lacking a broader structural critique (that is not take anything away from the author’s experience, though).

  20. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    The Beauty Myth lite. Perhaps this would have been a worthy inclusion in an anthology, especially one featuring a broad range of diverse voices that could give meatier responses to the infinite variety of "beauty" quandaries and experiences. Lee’s experience and her willingness to share has immense value, but would be better placed in a book for many, rather than a book for a few. On its own it is all too brief, and lacks significance. I also didn’t like the name checking of particular models. The Beauty Myth lite. Perhaps this would have been a worthy inclusion in an anthology, especially one featuring a broad range of diverse voices that could give meatier responses to the infinite variety of "beauty" quandaries and experiences. Lee’s experience and her willingness to share has immense value, but would be better placed in a book for many, rather than a book for a few. On its own it is all too brief, and lacks significance. I also didn’t like the name checking of particular models. It felt targeted and unnecessary. They’re part of a bigger system, one that they have little control over, and to single out particular women did not sit well with me.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kerri Beezley

    Four stars with the understanding that yes only a few aspects of beauty are touched on and yes it is from a privileged perspective.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    2.5 stars - rounded up. Hmm, a thin book about thinness (as opposed to the much broader topic of beauty). Unfortunately, I found this essay perplexing (and more so as it follows on from a much stronger previous work). As a memoir it was rather disingenuous; there was a little of “methinks the lady doth protest too much.” And the scholarly aspects ultimately lacked authority, quoting far too heavily and too often from the work of others (particularly for such a brief work). Lee says, “Look, I’m 2.5 stars - rounded up. Hmm, a thin book about thinness (as opposed to the much broader topic of beauty). Unfortunately, I found this essay perplexing (and more so as it follows on from a much stronger previous work). As a memoir it was rather disingenuous; there was a little of “methinks the lady doth protest too much.” And the scholarly aspects ultimately lacked authority, quoting far too heavily and too often from the work of others (particularly for such a brief work). Lee says, “Look, I’m smart. But even I can fall prey to self loathing, aided and abetted by society’s unattainable standards. We should all love ourselves for who we really are. I resolve to do this.” A worthy sentiment but publishable in this format, I’m not convinced.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kira

    I was so excited to read this book as I read Eggshell Skull earlier in the year and it quickly became one of my favourite books. I had high expectations for Beauty and Bri did not let me down. The style of this book reminded me of a Quarterly Essay format. It was incredibly thought provoking. At many stages of the book I was nodding as I could easily relate. At other points it really made me stop and think about my own negative trains of thought when it comes to the beauty ideal. I highly I was so excited to read this book as I read Eggshell Skull earlier in the year and it quickly became one of my favourite books. I had high expectations for Beauty and Bri did not let me down. The style of this book reminded me of a Quarterly Essay format. It was incredibly thought provoking. At many stages of the book I was nodding as I could easily relate. At other points it really made me stop and think about my own negative trains of thought when it comes to the beauty ideal. I highly recommend this book to all women. I will be passing it on to my friends and sister - I would be honestly shocked if they don't find at least one part of the book that resonates with them.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lilia

    I intend on throwing this book at people (by that I mean politely suggesting) to make sure that everyone reads this book. It’s a timely and revealing read around societal expectations placed on women regarding beauty and personal image. Lee invites readers in a very personal and open manner into her own experiences since the release of her book ‘Eggshell Skull’ to address how consuming and debilitating the management and assessment of personal image can be. Inscribed into our society and into I intend on throwing this book at people (by that I mean politely suggesting) to make sure that everyone reads this book. It’s a timely and revealing read around societal expectations placed on women regarding beauty and personal image. Lee invites readers in a very personal and open manner into her own experiences since the release of her book ‘Eggshell Skull’ to address how consuming and debilitating the management and assessment of personal image can be. Inscribed into our society and into people from a very young age, we are taught through offhand comments and glances the difference between what an “ideal” body is and what is deemed as “unideal”, to the extent that we know the difference between what ‘good’ and ‘junk’ food is. A revelation that personally hit me quite profoundly. It’s not a book to be missed.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Cathie Sawyer

    The authour of Eggshell Skull, Bri Lee tackles another hard topic exploring societies obsession with thinness and how this defines our concepts of beauty. Like Lee i am somone who is considered beauty privledged, in that i am caucasian, straight, in a normal weight range and able-bodied. I felt as if i could relate a lot to Lee's feelings and thoughts, and these were very eye opening on my how own ingrained thoughts and habits are affecting my life. However as there is not much exploration of The authour of Eggshell Skull, Bri Lee tackles another hard topic exploring societies obsession with thinness and how this defines our concepts of beauty. Like Lee i am somone who is considered beauty privledged, in that i am caucasian, straight, in a normal weight range and able-bodied. I felt as if i could relate a lot to Lee's feelings and thoughts, and these were very eye opening on my how own ingrained thoughts and habits are affecting my life. However as there is not much exploration of beauty ideals and societal preasures outside of this group i can see how it might not be as relatable to others. Hopefully one day it will be part of a collection from writers of all backgrounds sharing their own journeys but for the moment i am thankfull that Lee shared hers. Lee wrote this essay to document her own struggles in striving to achieve beauty and perfection and to share with others what it taught her. It is raw, it is real and it is entirely hers. I am confident to say that at some point in every girl or womens life they have felt the pressure to be the 'correct' shape and size, many of us from a shockingly young age. I remember at my first dance recital as a 5 year old being ashamed that my thighs were larger than my friends and knowing this was bad, i knew there were good foods and bad foods and mums had to diet but dads didnt. In western cultures thinness is often equated to beauty, and as such most women struggle with poor body image from a young age. A large part of Lee's essay discusses the opposing messages of society relating to beauty. Whilst women are so often told their bodies are wrong and need correcting through diets, anti ageing creams, lip fillers, eyelash extentions and an endless list of other 'improvements', as a society we preach empowerment of women and praise others for their #makeupfree selfies or celebrities for showing their natural post partum bodies. Girls these days are taught to lift each other up to succeed as a whole, however we are still putting ourselves down. We follow the punishing diets, buy influencers workout guides, get botox and chastise ourselves in the mirror because we cannot forget the belief that there is always something wrong with our bodies that needs fixing. This essay documents Lee's life with disordered eating, lack of confidence and poor body image both due to her own perfectionism and from her internalisation of societal pressures. After Lee realises being thin does not automatically make her life amazing or her happiness and confidence increase she begins a journey towards self acceptance and health of both the mind and body. Sharing this exploration in her essay, her struggles, her setbacks and her triumphs is a brave and touching move, and makes the piece feel very personal and for myself quite inspirational. This book was incredibly well written, confronting and very powerful. It highlights Lees incredible skill in discussing hard topics and is an absolute must read for girls and women.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Samantha

    THIS WAS AMAZING. So I feel like I need to justify why the 4 stars (really a 4.5) instead of 5. Bri talks a lot about the superiority of thinness, the unattainability of ‘beauty’ and the contradictions in calls for empowerment while simultaneously selling anti-ageing creams. I loved the attention given to the seemingly obvious connection between how women are told their bodies have no value and how women (and girls) are shamed when they treat their bodies as if they are “trash”. There were a few THIS WAS AMAZING. So I feel like I need to justify why the 4 stars (really a 4.5) instead of 5. Bri talks a lot about the superiority of thinness, the unattainability of ‘beauty’ and the contradictions in calls for empowerment while simultaneously selling anti-ageing creams. I loved the attention given to the seemingly obvious connection between how women are told their bodies have no value and how women (and girls) are shamed when they treat their bodies as if they are “trash”. There were a few tears when I read this as some of the thoughts resonated with me; really the high school version of me. BUT I found something missing, something that is heavily connected to my view of beauty. Fatness. I understand that this is a personal essay so it may not be something that Bri understands or is within her frame of view. But there were only two brief mentions of plus-size women; a famous plus-size model and a woman in a restaurant which poked at Bri’s fear of ending up “big like her”. As she quickly recognises this is a cruel thought, she then moves on to New York fashion week. As such a huge part of my own psyche and something I continue to battle with, I can’t help but wish there was more discussion on fat-shaming and experiences of plus-size women etc. I feel like it was too brushed over in the grand scheme of things or even forgotten along with other factors such as disability or cultural differences. Again, however, this is a highly personal essay. Overall, this is an amazing book which I loved to read. I felt the need to scream YES every few sentences. Bri has yet to disappoint me.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rhoda

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. 2.5 stars Thank you to Allen & Unwin for sending me an uncorrected proof of this book. The author has written a short book (or essay) which covers weight and thinness more so than the broader topic of beauty. Whilst I appreciated the author being raw and candid about her own experiences and she did provide some interesting food for thought, I felt her own thoughts were overshadowed by the excessive use of quoting other author’s works, particularly for such a slim volume. Other views 2.5 stars Thank you to Allen & Unwin for sending me an uncorrected proof of this book. The author has written a short book (or essay) which covers weight and thinness more so than the broader topic of beauty. Whilst I appreciated the author being raw and candid about her own experiences and she did provide some interesting food for thought, I felt her own thoughts were overshadowed by the excessive use of quoting other author’s works, particularly for such a slim volume. Other views expressed were rather disingenuous such as where the author points out (where she had a rather elaborate photo shoot for her first book where she felt compelled to lose a few kilos so she would look great in the designer clothing she had been allowed to select) that she doesn’t want other emerging authors to think their books won’t sell if they don’t do the same “body work” (including designer clothes and styled hair etc), yet she does not address or explore whether or not this may indeed have contributed to her success or not. I also feel that although the author attempted to throw in a bit of ‘diversity’ by including a brief WOC perspective (focusing on hair), however at no time acknowledges her own privilege. While the WOC’s untamed hair is being viewed as ‘unprofessional’ and ‘wild’ (amongst other things), this is hardly on the same page as how the author is perceived whether she is 63kg or 60kg, which is likely not even noticeable to anyone other than her. I felt it was remiss to not address her own privilege and the whole section felt a bit like it was thrown in for good measure. If this had been one part of a collection of essays, I think I would have appreciated it more but as a stand alone book I found it a bit disappointing. ⭐️⭐️.5 stars from me.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sheree | Keeping Up With The Penguins

    If you were to stand naked in front of a mirror, right now, in full fluorescent lighting, what would run through your mind? Would you be brave enough to put those thoughts on a page, and send that page out into the world? That’s what Bri Lee has done in Beauty—a literary essay (longer than a think-piece, shorter than a book), and the fine folks at Allen & Unwin were kind enough to send me a copy for review. In the first half, Lee gives a candid account of her experience of disordered eating If you were to stand naked in front of a mirror, right now, in full fluorescent lighting, what would run through your mind? Would you be brave enough to put those thoughts on a page, and send that page out into the world? That’s what Bri Lee has done in Beauty—a literary essay (longer than a think-piece, shorter than a book), and the fine folks at Allen & Unwin were kind enough to send me a copy for review. In the first half, Lee gives a candid account of her experience of disordered eating (and, by extension, disordered thinking about food and body). She details the money she spends on various beautification endeavours, and her difficulty to reconcile the idea of self-improvement without self-loathing. Then, in the second half, she looks at how thinness has become an ethical imperative, starts to explore the racial intersectionality of the beauty ideal, and she takes aim at the hypocrisy of women’s media and their symbiotic industries. I am HERE FOR IT! This is an intimate and laudably honest account of what it means to strive for a beauty (read as thinness) ideal. I devoured it in a single sitting. An extended review of Beauty is available to subscribers at Keeping Up With The Penguins.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jess

    I found this a rather frustrating and somewhat disappointing read after Eggshell Skull- as lots of other readers have noted, it seems to be a rather shallow examination of beauty. Not once did Bri acknowledge the beauty privilege she possesses as a conventionally attractive, white, thin woman, and I found the optimistic ending somewhat insincere. To be honest, I would have much preferred this as part of an edited collection featuring the voices of those who do not fit white society’s view of I found this a rather frustrating and somewhat disappointing read after Eggshell Skull- as lots of other readers have noted, it seems to be a rather shallow examination of beauty. Not once did Bri acknowledge the beauty privilege she possesses as a conventionally attractive, white, thin woman, and I found the optimistic ending somewhat insincere. To be honest, I would have much preferred this as part of an edited collection featuring the voices of those who do not fit white society’s view of beauty. I feel like Laura La Rosa’s review sums up my thoughts very well: http://rundog.art/beauty-bri-lee/

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jessica M

    http://jessjustreads.com Written by Australian author Bri Lee, Beauty is a memoir about her relationship with her body and her perception of how she looks — the book assesses women’s perspective on the concept of ‘beauty’ and how much time we spend thinking about how we look. This is a compact read, clocking in at just under 150 pages. Whilst the book may be short, the words inside pack a punch. Beauty prompts the reader to think about their own experiences with their body — the reader experience http://jessjustreads.com Written by Australian author Bri Lee, Beauty is a memoir about her relationship with her body and her perception of how she looks — the book assesses women’s perspective on the concept of ‘beauty’ and how much time we spend thinking about how we look. This is a compact read, clocking in at just under 150 pages. Whilst the book may be short, the words inside pack a punch. Beauty prompts the reader to think about their own experiences with their body — the reader experience is not just about understanding Bri’s journey, but understanding how women are made to feel inadequate no matter how they look. At times, it feels like we’re set up to fail. We’re set up to constantly worry about how we look, and how we’re supposed to look. “The house I rented through 2017 was the first place I had ever lived or even stayed in for an extended period of time where I had never thrown up after dinner…Was I exhibiting more, or less, self-control by resisting these urges?” As always, Bri’s writing is impeccable. Bri only uses the necessary amount of words to convey her point, and it proves her skill as an author. She doesn’t over explain or over indulge. There is no repetition. Her vocabulary is intellectual and informed, and her research supports the messages in the book. Stylistically, the mix of memoir and statistical and factual information is smooth and easy — the transition between Bri’s story and evidential information she presents to the reader is seamless. I know this isn’t anything to do with Bri’s writing, but the cover of the book and the overall package is marvellous — the artwork on the front and the physical size of the book compliments the inside very nicely. “I put the book down and made a new pact with myself, this time on paper, to try harder. I listed methods, weigh-ins, tips and tricks I found online that sounded cruel enough to be effective. It was a game of the mind; a challenge for the brain that would see the body benefit.” Admittedly, I found it surprising that Bri didn’t take the time to acknowledge her privileged position when it comes to the notion of ‘beauty’. She’s tall, lean, white, straight, and able-bodied. And mostly, her idea of ‘beauty’ revolves around thinness (there are many other elements of ‘beauty’ that different women would experience) and so this book definitely feels like it maintains quite a narrow focus. It’s to be expected because it’s about Bri’s experiences, but I wonder if there was capacity to make this a bigger project, and have other women come on board who have struggled with different aspects of ‘beauty’, perhaps in the realm of skin, height, disability or hair. “The next day I ate nothing but two light Cruskits and three mini pieces of sushi. When I thought about how I was surviving — still running and working and travelling — on such a small amount of food, I thought back to previous times in my life when I would eat three meals each day plus snacks, and I wondered if that was gluttonous of me, and if some shame came from that excess consumption.” This is incredibly well-written and touching, and Bri doesn’t shy away from confronting the difficult experiences she's had with her body. Young women, and women who have a difficult relationship with their weight, will be the perfect readership for this. Thank you to the publisher for sending me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

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