The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib


Anna Roux is a former ballet dancer from France, now living in Missouri with her husband, Matthias. When we first meet Anna, she is in Bedroom 5 at 17 Swann Street. She is 26 years old, weighs 88 pounds, and has been forced to seek treatment for the anorexia that is slowly killing her.

Rather than gently lead you through Anna’s descent into anorexia and eventual treatment, the book immediately thrusts the reader into the result of it: the drastic weight loss has already happened, and Anna is a resident of 17 Swann Street. Frequently given, oftentimes non-linear, flashbacks help the reader discover how she came to be there. Sometimes the lack of consistent chronology annoys me, but it worked well in this book, however. I appreciated the way it caused Anna’s backstory to slowly reveal itself, and how those revelations often changed my perception of Anna.

This is, without a doubt, the most heart-wrenching book I have read (so far) this year. Anna broke my heart over and over again. Seeing her fears about food, the way she rationalized eating one thing versus another (or not eating something at all), gave me just the teeny-tiniest bit of understanding of how devastating this eating disorder can be for someone who has it.

This novel continuously made me feel as if I were reading about an actual person, rather than a fictional character. I know this was a novel, and yet… I can’t let go of Anna. It’s not unusual for me to become attached to characters, but I worried over her for so long that I’m finding it difficult to stop doing so just because I’ve finished reading the book. Is she okay? Did she relapse? What about the other women at 17 Swann Street? Fictional characters or not, my heart wants them all to be okay.

Do give this beautiful novel a try… and I think you’ll easily understand why I’m finding it so hard to let go of Anna Roux.

I received an advance reading copy of this book courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley.

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Author: Yara Zgheib
Title: The Girls at 17 Swann Street
Genre: Literary Fiction, Women’s Fiction
Publication Date: February 5, 2019 by St. Martin’s Press
Rating: 5 stars

About the Book

The chocolate went first, then the cheese, the fries, the ice cream. The bread was more difficult, but if she could just lose a little more weight, perhaps she would make the soloists’ list. Perhaps if she were lighter, danced better, tried harder, she would be good enough. Perhaps if she just ran for one more mile, lost just one more pound.

Anna Roux was a professional dancer who followed the man of her dreams from Paris to Missouri. There, alone with her biggest fears – imperfection, failure, loneliness – she spirals down anorexia and depression till she weighs a mere eighty-eight pounds. Forced to seek treatment, she is admitted as a patient at 17 Swann Street, a peach pink house where pale, fragile women with life-threatening eating disorders live. Women like Emm, the veteran; quiet Valerie; Julia, always hungry. Together, they must fight their diseases and face six meals a day.

Yara Zgheib’s poetic and poignant debut novel is a haunting, intimate journey of a young woman’s struggle to reclaim her life. Every bite causes anxiety. Every flavor induces guilt. And every step Anna takes toward recovery will require strength, endurance, and the support of the girls at 17 Swann Street.

About the Author

YARA ZGHEIB is a Fulbright scholar with a Masters degree in Security Studies from Georgetown University and a PhD in International Affairs in Diplomacy from Centre D’études Diplomatiques et Stratégiques in Paris. She is fluent in English, Arabic, French, and Spanish. Yara is a writer for several US and European magazines, including The Huffington Post, The Four Seasons Magazine, A Woman’s Paris, The Idea List, and Holiday Magazine. She writes on culture, art, travel, and philosophy on her blog, “Aristotle at Afternoon Tea”

11 thoughts on “The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib

    • It definitely opened my eyes about anorexia–there was a great deal I wasn’t aware of, even though I thought I understood a fair amount. I have a feeling these characters are going to stick with me permanently.

      I think you’d enjoy this book, Diana.


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