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The Opposite of Butterfly Hunting: Dark and uncomfortable read by Harry Potter star Evanna Lynch

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Evanna Lynch

Evanna Lynch

The Opposite of Butterfly Hunting by Evanna Lynch

The Opposite of Butterfly Hunting by Evanna Lynch

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Evanna Lynch

The opening chapter of Evanna Lynch’s memoir The Opposite of Butterfly Hunting may send a few chills down your spine.

What’s rape?” she writes, as she recalls her 10-year-old self picking her mother’s brain about something “unspeakable”. Some readers may wonder whether the question is deliberately included for its shock value. However, it later becomes clear that the abrupt opening sets the tone for the rest of the memoir: a dark, and uncomfortable read that feigns a marginal degree of optimism.

The Irish actress, who is best known for her role as Luna Lovegood in Harry Potter, writes that her story is about “choosing creativity, love and a positive outlook on life”, and while there is an embellishment of hope and positivity in it, her gnawing sense of worthlessness and self-hatred are central themes throughout the book.

There is an overwhelming focus on how her self-loathing manifests itself as pre-teen anorexia and the strain it had on her family and creative mind.

She writes in painstaking detail about her time in a specialised eating disorder rehabilitation centre in London and reveals some disturbing truths about the psyche of the long-term anorexics she met during her hospitalisation.

It is noted quite early on in the memoir that Lynch comes from a very loving home. The child of two teachers, based in a small town in north-east of Drogheda.

She appears to have lived a comfortable life growing up, and it may come as a surprise to some how a person from a caring and loving background can develop anorexia. Lynch dismantles the misconception that those who suffer with an eating disorder come from a broken home or have buried trauma. “I’ve never been physically or psychologically abused,” she writes, “I have no trauma.”

She started grappling with the illness after she started a diet on the back of a cereal box shortly after her 11th birthday.

She writes that the eating disorder became her “entire identity” and her commitment to this identity led to her first hospitalisation at the children’s ward in a local hospital for five-and-a-half weeks.

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Throughout her long anorexia story, readers get sprinkles of the deepest and darkest innermost thoughts of those who are plagued with the idea that they are “too fat” or subscribe to the belief that having an eating disorder can help them “fit in and stand out”.

What is quite compelling is how Lynch dispels the myths around recovery. “Mostly, when we talk about recovery, we talk about it being triumphant, glorious: all strength and power,” she writes. “I really believe recovery from physical recovery is where the work to recovery truly begins, and that it’s a mistake to celebrate recovery at this juncture and to suppose it ended here.”

She explains how “gaining weight” and “normal eating habits” are superficial aspects of recovery and how there is an element of grief and submission that comes with no longer being anorexic.

“To me, recovery felt much more like surrendering, like giving up the fight, like turning my back on my truest friend,” she writes.

She mentions that journalists previously romanticised her journey to recovery by reporting her Harry Potter casting is what saved her from anorexia. But in reading her memoir, it is clear that she saved herself. No amount of psychotherapy, or medical intervention can bring a person from having an eating disorder to being someone who is fully recovered without the desire to change from within.

In the words of Evanna Lynch: “Neither love, money, riches, nor a part in a Harry Potter will compel a person to recover from their eating disorder if they don’t want to let it go.”

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The Opposite of Butterfly Hunting by Evanna Lynch

The Opposite of Butterfly Hunting by Evanna Lynch

The Opposite of Butterfly Hunting by Evanna Lynch

Memoir: The Opposite of Butterfly Hunting by Evanna Lynch

Headline, 480 pages, hardcover €21; e-book £9.99  


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