Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Unbearable Lightness - A Story of Loss & Gain

Author: Portia de Rossi
Genre: Autobiography
Pages: 308
Published: November 2010
First Line: "HE DOESN'T WAIT until I'm awake."

Synopsis: This is a detailed look into the life of Australian-born actress Portia de Rossi, best known for her work on Ally McBeal and Arrested Development. Portia shows readers her struggles coming to term with her sexuality, dealing with the pressures that were self-imposed as well as pressures put on her by the modeling industry and Hollywood.

My Thoughts: After seeing a bit of Portia's interview on Oprah awhile back I knew that this was an autobiography that I'd be interested in reading. To me, Portia has always seemed to be a Hollywood enigma. She seemed to be on the periphery of Hollywood and wasn't on my radar (after Ally McBeal) until she was dating and eventually marrying comedienne Ellen DeGeneres.

I will say that I truly appreciate the courage it must have taken to write a book dealing with such sensitive issues as accepting one's sexuality, publicly and privately coming out as well as eating disorders. That being said I did find that the book dragged pretty much the entire way. While I found the sneak peeks into the behind-the-scenes at Ally McBeal were really cool I think that I was hoping that the book would focus more on her 'happily ever after' marriage with Ellen (whom I've always admired and is one of the most positive up-beat personalities out there). But that's my fault ... I realized going in that the book would be about her inner struggle with her sexuality and her eating disorder, I just didn't realize that the book would focus, pretty much solely, on the eating disorder.

I had such high hopes for this book but unfortunately this book just didn't come close to measuring up. My favourite parts of the book were the prologue and epilogue which isn't a great sign. I didn't like the feel of the book either. It seemed more like a bunch of journal entries and the pace of the book suffered for it. The back and forth from past to present got a little weary after awhile too and at some points I had to re-read parts in order to figure out what time frame I was currently in.

I think that a big part of why I didn't like this book was that the majority of the book went over the same issue again and again -- Portia's view that she was ugly and fat, her low self-esteem, reducing her caloric intake, her self-loathing when she didn't attain her goals ... I don't want to belittle her struggles or the hell she lived through but it got a redundant and tedious reading chapter after chapter which dealt with the same issues. I found myself skimming paragraphs towards the end because I figured I didn't have to pay close attention since the same issues were reiterated again and again. Not a good sign.

It seemed to get bogged down with the day-to-day rituals of the eating disorder but didn't scratch the surface of Portia's feelings. I thought that the book would focus more on how she overcame her eating disorder and how she came to terms with her sexuality and self-worth. But her recovery was glossed over in the end and seemed a little too neat and tidy for me. The focus was on the anorexia and her lowest points but not on her recovery. I just found that odd and not fulfilling. Odder still is the fact that after reading her autobiography I still don't feel like I know who Portia is.

I admit that I do not know much about eating disorders and have only a general idea about what's involved in the daily life of an anorexic but I was astounded to learn the extent to which it affected her life. For example, not wearing lip gloss for the fear of ingesting extra calories, wearing only her underwear at home because she wanted to be as cold as possible in order to burn off the most calories possible or reducing the amount she ate daily to only 300 calories! At least I can take away a better understanding of the day-to-day life of a person with an eating disorder after reading this book.

I am very glad that Portia has found peace and fulfillment in her life and I'm hoping that by coming out about her sexuality as well as her eating disorder her story (even if I wasn't a fan of her book) can help others as they deal with similar issues.

My Rating: 2/5 stars


Jen said...

That's too bad...I've always thought her struggle with her sexuality must be even more comlicated because of the fact that she is so beautiful, and so appealing to men. I can't fathom what it must be like to get the kind of attention she routinely gets. I have a hard time in general with celebrity books because it often seems like one more way for them to make money or to promote themselves...

Laurie@The Baking Bookworm said...

I wondered about that too, Jen. She's gorgeous and I think that people assumed that she'd have (and want) men fawning over her. It would add a whole new layer of pressure, I assume.
It's too bad this book didn't pan out (in my opinion). After reading the book I wanted to watch old episodes of Ally McBeal and see if I viewed her portrayal of Nelle Porter differently after learning what she truly thought while filming. :)

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