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‘If her moving, engrossing, elegantly written memoir does not win prizes, there really is no justice in the literary world.’ Lucy Atkins, Sunday Times

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.


When Arifa Akbar discovered that her sister had fallen seriously ill, she assumed there would be a brief spell in hospital and then she’d be home. This was not to be. It was not until the day before she died that the family discovered she was suffering from tuberculosis.

Consumed is a story of sisterhood, grief, the redemptive power of art and the strange mythologies that surround tuberculosis. It takes us from Keats’s deathbed and the tubercular women of opera to the resurgence of TB in modern Britain today. Arifa travels to Rome to haunt the places Keats and her sister had explored, to her grandparent’s house in Pakistan, to her sister’s bedside at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead and back to a London of the seventies when her family first arrived, poor, homeless and hungry.

Consumed is an eloquent and moving excavation of a family’s secrets and a sister’s detective story to understand her sibling.

Reviews

Compelling, searingly honest, so real that, at times, you feel the burn on the skin, but the teller never exploits these emotions. Akbar's artistic sensibility turns what could be a misery memoir into a literary tour de force.
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown
A brilliant book about loss and grief, about art and death, and, more importantly, about family and belonging. The strength of feeling is remarkable, but it's Arifa Akbar's writing that lifts it to an even higher plane of achievement.
Anthony Quinn, author of <i>Our Friends in Berlin</i>
I loved this haunting, beautiful exploration of sisterhood, love and loss. Consumed weaves together art history, medical mystery and grief memoir with enormous honesty and tenderness.
Rachel Clarke, bestselling author of <i>Dear Life</i> and <i>Breathtaking</i>
I'm bowled over. It's a searing, brilliant, dazzling memoir of sisterhood, mental illness, art and grief. Heartbreaking and beautiful. I can't recommend it highly enough.
Christina Patterson
[Consumed] is a tender memoir of sisterhood, of growing up in a low-income immigrant family in Primrose Hill in the 1970s and 1980s and, above all, of family dysfunction, mental illness, grief and survival . . . Akbar sews many disparate strands into a work of art. If her moving, engrossing, elegantly written memoir does not win prizes, there really is no justice in the literary world.
Lucy Atkins, Sunday Times
Beguiling . . . The story and the writing have an unusual mystery about them, with striking imagery and a relatable insight into the darknesses and half-truths of family life . . . this one stands out for its eccentricity and elegiac splendour.
Diana Evans, <i>Guardian</i> Summer Books
An insightful and often lyrical study of sibling and the story of a troubled life cut short . . . as Fauzia immortalised her sister in art, [Akbar] has done the same, vividly and wonderfully, in prose.
Fiona Sturges, Guardian
A beautifully written memoir with the ghost of Fauzia haunting every page.
Shirley Whiteside, Herald
'Consumed is Akbar's poised and scholarly memoir; her sister and their relationship is at its heart, skilfully woven together with a cultural history of the disease that killed her . . . A moving story of loss, grief and sisterhood.
Francesca Carington, Tatler
One of this year's must-read memoirs . . . A rich and beautiful story that will at times leave you weeping while simultaneously hugging Akbar's writing close.
Francesca Brown, Stylist
An engrossing and moving book, both forensic and delicate in its dredging of complicated truths . . . I have rarely read a memoir with such a combination of powerful, tender feeling and cool-headed analysis. Rather like Fauzia's embroideries, the tapestry of sisterly passion and pain is worked here in precise, gleaming little stitches: a literary labour of love.
Jenny McCartney, Mail on Sunday