Book Review: Rose Bretécher's Pure*

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* I was fortunate to receive a copy of Pure from Unbound for review, but as you'll see from my past post, this was something I was already super pumped for and I have huge love for the things that they do. I wasn't compensated for my review in any other way, and all opinions are my own. *

(I am completely out of my depth talking about mental illness, and have tried my hardest to use language that is respectful towards those with OCD and Pure-O. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to improve my vocabulary when it comes to talking about mental disorders, because the last thing I want to do is make anybody feel marginalised or patronised. Discussion about mental illness is something that needs to be spoken about freely, but I know often the language I use will not always be free from problems.)

Back in July of last year, I wrote a post on here about the crowdfunding platform Unbound after hearing their CEO Dan Kieran speaking at a publishing talk earlier in the summer. In case you never caught the post or you don't fancy going back to read all about it, Unbound is a crowdfunding publishing platform where authors can pitch their books to its users and anybody can choose whether or not they want to help fund the publication of the book. With pledges come rewards, such as finished signed copies of the books when published, or higher levels such as meeting the author. It's a perfect platform for both new writers and the famous alike, giving them the ability to release things that might not have necessarily been chosen by larger publishing houses. In my original post, I made a short list of projects on the site that caught my attention, and at the top of the list was Pure by Rose Bretécher, a memoir about Rose's experiences living with a form of OCD called 'Pure-O' that causes intrusive thoughts. Over a year later, I've been lucky enough to be provided with a copy of Rose's memoir from Unbound, and I could not be happier. Seeing this project as a physical object is beyond exciting; it's wonderful that this platform has allowed a book to be published that had previously been rejected by so many other houses.

Firstly I need to cover the physical appearance of this book because, just look at it. It's absolutely stunning, and the overall quality of it, even for a proof, is astounding. Unbound have done a brilliant job hiring talented designers (the cover for Pure was designed by Elliot Dear and Rose herself), as well as taking great care in their creation of this book. The book also came with a cardboard bookmark of the same design; just another little treat and signal of how much they care about those who use their platform.

Onto the content of the book itself. Rose's narrative covers the earliest memories she has regarding ideas of sex, through to the present day and the methods she uses in an attempt to quell her invasive thoughts including therapy. She takes us through her journey with Pure-O from the beginning and how these thoughts made her feel for the first decade she experienced them. A little background on Pure-O: it's a form of OCD whereby the individual with the disorder experiences intrusive, often sexual, thoughts that cannot be controlled (an obsessive thought leads to a compulsive behaviour, however with Pure-O the compulsion is also a thought, rather than a physical action). Many, if not all, of us experience unexplained thoughts at times, say, standing by a cliff edge wondering what would happen if you jumped off, or imagining violence towards another person. But these thoughts do not take control over our lives. Those who have Pure-O experience these intrusive thoughts hundreds of times a day, causing them depression, anxiety, and a host of other mental illnesses due to an inability to live a 'normal' life.

(But what is normal? When an enormous portion of the world's population has one or more mental illness affecting them on a daily basis, surely we can now say that it's totally normal.)

Before Rose was diagnosed with Pure-O, she questioned her identity, sexual and otherwise, unsure of whether these thoughts meant she was unconsciously suppressing darker urges. She didn't think that this could have been something other people experienced, and that it was her own personal flaw. These events in the book as she questions who she is are told very frankly and honestly, with Rose never shying away from telling the reader her worries she had before learning that she had a form of OCD. I was shocked throughout these passages with how she managed to cope through these situations, unaware that there were others out there feeling the same things, with no network of people to help them cope. I was also overwhelmed by how long Rose went without telling anybody about her intrusive thoughts due to the nature of the disorder, unable to imagine how personally I would cope in that situation. But Rose is an incredible woman, and writing this memoir after already dealing with all of these struggles, having to relive them through the writing process, just blows me away.

The ending to Rose's story is one of hope, and one that destroys the idea that trying to rid your life of imperfection and insecurity will never lead you to happiness. Life is messy and uncomfortable, and that's what makes it life. Rose's book is one about Pure-O, but it is also one about life, and how we have to live it, despite our situation. Throughout she also uses humour (dry, witty, wry, amazing) in a refreshing way, to show her way of, and I quote the blurb, 'embracing the unfathomable weirdness of the human mind.' Sounds about right.

Rose Bretécher has written for various national publications on mental illness, and is vocal about the subject on her Twitter account, so following her there is incredibly beneficial and educational if you want to find out more. You can read/watch more about Pure via the Unbound website, or just pick the book up yourself for an informative, frank, and often very funny read. You can find out more about Pure-O on the OCD-UK website.

M x

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