Cover Image: Hunger Heart

Hunger Heart

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Member Reviews

Hunger Heart is a sensual, profound work of autofiction about love, relationships, mental illness, and recovery by one of Denmark’s most celebrated literary writers. Fastrup immerses us in the alienations of her breakdown and hospitalization: what it’s like to apologize for threatening your loved one with a knife; how an eating disorder can begin with the discomfort of family and adolescence; and how to make the long journey back to one’s creative life.
An absolute corker . . . totally engrossing and superbly written ⭐⭐⭐⭐
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Hunger Heart is the deeply moving story of (autofictional!) Karen's breakdown, from successful writer to inpatient at a mental health centre, and then gradually returning to health. Her recovery is far from linear and I found it a quite uncomfortable read at times, her sense of fear and alienation coming across so strongly, but there are also many moments of love and hope and life. It's a deeply courageous book and I really recommend it.
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"Hunger Heart" by Karen Fastrup is a poignant memoir that explores the author's experiences with food, body image, and the search for self-acceptance. The author, who has struggled with disordered eating for much of her life, shares her journey towards healing and recovery with honesty and vulnerability.

One of the strengths of this memoir is the way it sheds light on the complex and often misunderstood issue of disordered eating. The author's descriptions of her own experiences and emotions are both vivid and relatable, and her reflections on the cultural and societal factors that contribute to the problem are both insightful and thought-provoking.

The writing style is engaging and emotive, with well-crafted descriptions of the author's thoughts and feelings that draw the reader into her story. The author's observations about the role of food and eating in our lives are both perceptive and illuminating, and her reflections on her own journey towards self-acceptance are both inspiring and relatable.

Another strength of this memoir is the way it emphasizes the importance of self-care and self-compassion in overcoming adversity. The story is ultimately one of hope and resilience, and the author's determination to find peace with her body and her relationship with food is both inspiring and empowering.

Overall, "Hunger Heart" is a powerful and moving memoir that will resonate with anyone who has struggled with issues of body image and self-acceptance. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a brave and honest account of one woman's journey towards healing and self-love.
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"My sense of identity across space and time is precisely what one would expect from an individual in our era of fragmented modernity."
Fastrup's "Hunger Heart" delves deep into the themes of alienation, isolation, loneliness and the hunger to belong, to heal through writing.
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Hunger Heart, written by Karen Fastrup and translated by Marina Allemano, is a work of auto-fiction that lets the reader experience, as closely as possible, a breakdown and its consequences.

It took a few pages for me to get used to the flow of the writing, the disjointed feeling which, I imagine, accompanies being in a mental ward. Yet the writing also has a flow to it that helps the reader understand what is happening, both within Karen's mind and in the world around her. Once you find that flow the novel reads quite well.

I think I saw a quote from Fastrup that helped me understand, to a better degree, the distinction between auto-fiction and fiction influenced by a writer's life experiences (isn't it all?). I don't have the quote handy so I will try to paraphrase, which means this is more my understanding than specifically what she said. In other words, any confusion is on me, not her. Auto-fiction seems to be more specific in nature, in that it focuses or centers a specific event or period, with enough other information to make the story more understandable. The thing that makes it fiction is that there is not the need to make sure every incident or conversation has a one-to-one relation to something that actually happened. I believe she mentioned that in order to both move the story along and portray what she was feeling at the time she was living the story, she combined several incidents into a completely fictional incident which captured or retained the emotions and feelings even though that particular event never happened. So that immediately separates this from actual autobiography or memoir (at least how they should be). This entirely fictional event is situated in the midst of incidents that more closely resemble what really happened. In many autobiographical novels, by which I mean those influenced by a person's experiences, very few of the events are actual events, most are simply using experiences to make the fictional account that much more realistic. So the heavy use of actual events interspersed with fictional events versus almost entirely fictional, though influenced by actual, events is what I think of as the difference between auto-fiction and autobiographically influenced novels. Okay, maybe I didn't help much.

While the personal journey is what I will take with me from the book, I also found the glimpse into what passes for mental healthcare to be worth remembering as well. Misdiagnoses are not uncommon, especially for women, and sometimes the care seems to be missing just that very thing, caring. My comment isn't meant as an over-the-top attack on the field, but rather an acknowledgement that there is still a lot we don't know about our minds and what makes each of us the persons we are.

I would recommend this to readers who want to gain insight into the protagonists in the novels they read, and thus insight into ourselves. 

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
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Felt very clunky and unsure. I really wanted to like this but it kept stopping me. Wished for more. Great title and cover!
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A raw heartbreaking look at a woman suffering from mental illness a book that is taken from the authors actual mental breakdown and her diagnosis.We read about the characters relationship falling apart her desperate search for love and her desire to heal mentally.This is a very intimate look at the characters life she shares scenes from her childhood and up to her present day life.Haunting heart wrenching story.#netgalley #hungerheart
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Hunger Heart is a raw and unflinching examination of desire, mental illness, recovery and middle age from a new writer to me, Danish literary writer Karen Fastrup. 

This was a little powerhouse of a book and knowing it was auto fiction, there were moments that stilled me completely. Beautifully translated by Marina Allemano, Fastrup is an author I will read again. 

The stream of consciousness narrative style doesn’t always work for me but I felt it suited the narrator’s scattered thoughts in this instance. In spite of the subject matter, I found it a hopeful, comforting read that drives home the importance of human connection and the resilience of the human condition. I’d have liked more on narrator’s relationship with her parents but I enjoyed the follow up note by the author on her diagnosis. 3.5/5 

Many thanks to the author and Book*Hug Press for the ARC via @netgalley. Hunger Heart was published on 22 November 2022.
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In 2015 acclaimed Danish author Karen Fastrup suffered a mental breakdown and was hospitalised in a psychiatric ward. The original diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder was was later changed to ADHD. She has transformed that whole experience into this raw and honest work of autofiction, in which she explores her feelings and her struggles to regain her equilibrium. It’s an immersive and sometimes uncomfortable read, with the fragmented structure mirroring her fragmented mental state. With spare and almost objective prose, it’s a short but powerful read, which I felt gave real insight into mental illness and recovery. A story of alienation, isolation, loneliness and the feeling of not belonging in spite of a real hunger to do so, and ultimately of healing through writing.
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First of all, kudos to the publisher for including a foreword written by "Hunger Heart" translator, Marina Allemano, that added a bit of a context to the story.

Being an autofiction, centring the subjects of traumatic experiences and mental health issues, "Hunger Heart" is very raw and honest. Karen Fastrup takes her readers on a journey through two significant periods of her life - her childhood and adolescence, as well as her adulthood. Memories of her life in rural Denmark intertwine with diary-like entries around her seeking and receiving mental health treatments while living in Copenhagen, resulting in better understanding of the influence of the protagonist's past on her present struggles. There are stories of parental immaturity, romantic partners not being capable to cope with loved ones cries for help, and deep loneliness that comes with living with untreated and unaddressed mental health struggles.

I also appreciated an afterword regarding Fastrup's further diagnosis and earlier misdiagnosis, that also adds to the complexity of the events portrayed in "Hunger Heart".

It was an interesting and very moving read.
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I didn't know what to expect from this book and when I started reading I still didn't know what I expected but I really enjoyed it. A very thought provoking read
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