Book Review - 'Skinful' by Robyn Flemming
I am not normally a big reader of memoirs, but I am glad I was sent a copy of this book by the author’s publicist to read before my upcoming interview with the author on this very podcast.
Robyn Flemming’s memoir showcases her adventures spending a lifetime as a global nomad, but is also a raw and honest story of healing.
It is a fast-paced and engaging read as you join the author on her travels around the world, working as a freelance editor.
The book is divided into four parts, each highlighting turning points in her life. The first covers her years in Hong Kong from 1986 to 1993; the second describes her time back in Australia; the third her time as a global nomad; and the fourth is the beginning of her new life, free of alcohol at last.
The author is the first to admit she has an addictive personality, possibly because of childhood experiences with her parents. Is her compulsion to constantly travel and push herself to compete in marathons all over the world her way of trying to outrun her problem drinking?
While in Hong Kong, her hidden dependency on alcohol begins to impact on her physical and emotional wellbeing.
Maybe returning to Australia is the answer? She turns to Alcoholics Anonymous and manages eleven months without drinking, before old habits, once again rear their ugly head. This time, she decides, she’ll drink moderately, but no matter how hard she tries, the problem drinking follows her, wherever she goes. She spends decades hiding this part of her from the people around her.
She once again often drinks alone in her room after she said, ‘I’ll just have two glasses.’ Those two glasses would turn into an entire bottle, sometimes more.
She throws herself into long distance running and sets extreme physical challenges for herself to try and gain control of her addiction. She looks back on her childhood years, being brought up by a hard taskmaster of a father and a loving, but overwhelmed, and often overstretched mother, who was your typical housewife of the 1950s and 1960s. She didn’t have the confidence to stand up to her husband.
The author realises she had been using alcohol to numb her feelings and emotions. An emotional void filled with copious amounts of her poison, white wine.
During a hurricane in New York City, after four long decades of battling this demon, she finds the courage she needs to stop drinking once and for all.
One important aspect of this book is it highlights something known as grey area drinking. This is when we drink more than a moderate amount of alcohol, but don’t quite meet the criteria for total dependence. It is easy to see how she could struggle for so long. It’s probably more common than we think.
The book is well written and provides hope to other who may find themselves in a similar cycle of drinking behaviour.
If by sharing her brave and inspiring story, she can help another overcome their addiction, then every drop of blood, sweat, and tears the author poured onto the pages was worth it.
I give it 5 stars.
You can find the book here ;