I bought this book after hearing the author interviewed on the radio. I expected to enjoy it but found it a really thought provoking read. It is funny in places but also sad too. What surprised me most was the beauty and honesty of the writing and the broad depth of experiences covered. It is a great summary of the "Wellness" industry but made more relevant because of the authors exploration of Wellness "experiences". Ultimately it is a compassionate and kind book which I highly recommend
I was expecting this book to be more journalistic and less of a memoir than it is. It reads a bit like a protracted Bridget Jones' diary, with Brigid playing up the comic nature of her swings from hedonism to "wellness", which mostly means expensive treatments, retreats and trips overseas. I was staggered by the amount of money that Brigid, and the media outlets that have sent her on postings, have spent in the pursuit of these stories and"wellness" itself - I suppose that is partly the point, that there is big business in middle class insecurities and unrest. Once I adjusted my expectations about the depth of critique or journalistic inquiry and settled in for more of a romp, I still found the book a bit lacking as a memoir. Its repetitive and, because the episodes aren't for the most part related chronologically, but linked under themes, it has a sitcom sort of feel - no real throughline through Brigid's life, or developing insight, just a comically detached relationship to herself and to the reader. That said, Brigid seems like a hoot, and is persistently funny.
A lot of us aspire to be well. It’s estimated that the wellness industry, which sells everything from day spas, retreats and yoga classes to supplements and detox diets is a multibillion dollar one that’s rising. Guardian journalist, Brigid Delaney is well-acquainted with this alternative church having been a devotee of various health and wellness fads over the years. In her third book, Wellmania she chronicles her misadventures in this pursuit for wellness. It’s ultimately an interesting one that separates the wheat from the chaff or the hype from the things that do work and it’s all nicely-presented in the form of some funny and painfully honest fly-on-the-wall-style essays. Wellmania consists of three different parts: clean, lean and serene. In the first section Delaney describes in detail the horror that she experienced when she embarked on an extreme fast. It is one that our prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull has completed along with television’s very own, Eddie McGuire. It’s also a detox that makes some big promises with respect to maintaining long-term weight-loss and removing toxins from the body. Reading Delaney’s account is terribly voyeuristic and painful to witness at times and rather funny and silly at others, particularly when she is being self-deprecating and taking pot-shots at her subsequent halitosis. The lean portion of the book is devoted to Delaney’s commitment to practicing yoga. This penchant for yoga would see her doing it in many countries around the world (Delaney is a globe-trotting journalist who has stories about living in various countries, so she should write her memoirs one day). It is through yoga that Delaney encounters everyone from rural Aussies doing it in jumpers and jeans to the most committed fanatics in pants that cost more than some people’s grocery bills. It is times like these that the reader comes to appreciate the fact that wellness is a privilege for the rich and a commodity that can be both bought and sold. The final part is titled serene and is dedicated to meditation and mindfulness practices as well as the periods Delaney spent at a silent retreat. Once again, she does a fabulous job of interviewing the key proponents of the treatment as well as sharing her own fascinating anecdotes and thoughts about the subject. Wellmania ultimately sees Delaney playing the intrepid, gonzo wellbeing journalist who tries just about anything once while the reader is left to make up their own minds about these alternative treatments and remedies. Wellmania is a great read because Delaney isn’t afraid to tackle the Goliath industry head on. She is thoughtful and wise in her arguments about the rise in popularity of these things and she notes how people are filling a void that was previously occupied by religions (and answering some big questions about spirituality in the process). This collection is essential reading for anyone who is curious to know more about the wellness craze because Delaney is ultimately like the cooler, worldlier older sister who paves the way for us one yoga mat at a time.