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The Definition of Beautiful

  • Publication Date: September 1, 2023
  • ISBN: 9781990601460 / 1990601464
  • 208 pages; 5" x 8¼"

Shortlisted for the 2024 Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer Prize

A stunning memoir of coming of age and recovering from anorexia in the 2020s

Charlotte Bellows wrote The Definition of Beautiful between the ages of fifteen and seventeen, in the wake of lockdown and in recovery from anorexia. In the tradition of Sylvia Plath in The Bell Jar and Françoise Sagan in Bonjour Tristesse, Bellows writes with deceptively straightforward urgency, pushing through society’s constraints on the bodies and minds of girls and women to offer a story both achingly familiar and devastatingly new.

In 2020, fourteen-year-old Charlotte’s lifelong drive to achieve ‘perfection’ distorts into an all-encompassing obsession. Living between the suffocating world of lockdown and an uncanny dreamscape inhabited by competing avatars, Charlotte faces a parade of masked faces in hospital rooms, the aftermath of first love, the erosion of lifelong friendship, and the agony of seeing her illness devastate her family as it threatens to destroy her; as the world reopens, she finds new connections and mentors, new joy, new ways of thinking, new ways to be.

Charlotte Bellows offers a potent fusion of insight and innocence — a story for those who suffer or have suffered from eating disorders, but, more, a vital coming of age story of a young gay and artistic woman, tugged and throttled by a myriad of pressures, not least from the dark gravity that is the underside of her own creative drive.

“In her stunning debut, Charlotte Bellows has crafted a work of searing honesty, beauty, and daring. She takes on the definition of beauty the world demands and in exquisite prose, in a structure uniquely hers, bravely carries the reader into anorexia’s devastating isolating alternate landscape, a landscape of heartbreak, hopelessness, and ultimate transcendence. It is an intimate story, yet universal to all who have felt despair. Its language sings as she opens to the reader the extraordinary resilience of the human spirit. I read this book breathless at its emotion, its intelligence, and its art.” ROSEMARY NIXON author of Are You Ready to Be Lucky?

“Charlotte Bellows has bravely given us the opportunity to have an artistic understanding of what it means to live with an eating disorder. She calls into question why we aren’t doing more, and shows the power of beauty when people truly and emotionally show up.” ANDREA HALWAS LARSEN Registered Expressive Arts Therapy Consultant and Educator

Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer Prize, 2024 (short-listed)
High Plains Book Awards (First Book; Memoir/Creative Nonfiction), 2024 (short-listed)

News & Events

High Plains Book Awards: The Definition of Beautiful is a finalist
The Definition of Beautiful reviewed in Alberta Views
Charlotte Bellows shortlisted for the 2024 Rakuten Kobo Emerging Writer Prize
The Definition of Beautiful shortlisted for an Alberta Literary Award
Charlotte Bellows in Prairie books NOW
The Definition of Beautiful: A CBC Books Best Book of the Year
Charlotte Bellows showcased in Calgary Guardian
The Definition of Beautiful highlighted on CBC Books
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