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Book review: Beauty by Bri Lee 

Bri Lee has followed up her brilliant Eggshell Skull with an eassy titled Beauty. While the two books are quite different, they are linked as they draw heavily on Lee’s experiences. 

Eggshell Skull tells of Lee’s time as a judge’s associate, during which time she travelled around Queensland suporting a judge hearing cases of sexual abuse. 

At the same time, she was pondering her own experience of sexual assault, and whether she would take her own case to court. 

In Beauty, Lee delves further into her insecurities about her body and her face to try to tame her desire to be ‘beautiful’. The book draws heavily on the work of Naomi Wolf in The Beauty Myth – a book that I read when I was younger and which changed my attitude to the beauty industry and shaped my decisions about the price I would pay for beauty. 

While Wolf’s book could be described as life-changed, Lee’s was a more personal account, revealing the extent to which beauty impacted on the lives of women, even those as accomplished as Lee. 

In some places, I nodded in agreement, while in others I marveled at the dissatisfaction Lee felt about her appearance. It made me feel sad that even an award-winning author could not escape the pressure to look a certain way, no matter her successes.  

While the ending rounded out the essay, it left me wondering whether it really was possible for Lee to override all of the societal pressures to be a certain size and look a certain way, and how long she could maintain the sense of equilibrium she felt. In a way, the ending didn’t ring true as the extent of influence the beauty myth held over her seemed overwhelming. I hope that is not the case as Lee is clearly an extraordinary woman. It is saddening that this is not always enough for women.  

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