Saturday, 27 March 2010

The Sugarless Plum - Zippora Karz

I love ballet – I love the beauty, skill and athleticism of the dancers, the colour and grandeur of the settings, and the drama and emotion of the music. I also have Type 1 diabetes, diagnosed the week before I was due to run a marathon, so I was instantly attracted to Zippora’s story and it has not disappointed. I have read it from cover to cover, with each chapter compelling me to continue as new dramas of despair, elation and dedication arose from the turn of every page.

The book describes Zippora’s childhood and life with the New York City Ballet, her diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes at a critical point in her career, and her subsequent struggles and triumphs.

The book is beautifully written, and beautifully balanced too, as one might hope from the biography of a ballerina’s life. It is a highly-readable story in any context – you do not need to share a love of ballet or to have experience of diabetes to be enthralled and inspired by it. If, however, you do share those experiences or know of anyone that does, this book will give you a remarkable insight into the sheer hard work a human being is capable of putting in to achieve the appearance of effortless grace and power. To have that regime put under the extra pressures and stress of dealing with a sudden diagnosis of diabetes is something few of us could contemplate.

I was diagnosed relatively recently, but Zippora was diagnosed at a time when there was much less information and understanding about diabetes, particularly when diagnosed as a young adult when misdiagnosis was not uncommon (and can still occur today). Nor were there the flexible regimes and gadgetry available to monitor and treat diabetes that there are today, such as almost instant blood-testing meters and insulin pumps. I read with horror at some of the trials she had to endure due to lack of appropriate care or knowledge of what her condition meant, placing myself in such a confusion of conflicting advice and information.

I would recommend this without hesitation to anyone as a beautifully-crafted, thrilling and inspiring book, which stands alone in its own right as a spell-binding journey through adversity.

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