Knowing what The Girls at 17 Swann Street is about before diving in is key. The reader should know that this is a story of a woman dealing with anorexia, written in a stream-of-consciousness narration that is almost prose.
This narration style is different than other novels. It makes the novel flow quickly, but it also allows the reader to truly feel and experience what Anna, a 26-year-old woman with anorexia, is experiencing.
Anna, in almost a journal-esque form, tells her story. She is mostly in the present, dealing with anorexia at 17 Swann Street (an in-patient rehab center for women with eating disorders). However, she also gives background on her relationship with her husband and how she ended up where she is.
The reader feels Anna's pain as she literally has a breakdown over having to eat a bagel and cream cheese. Her feelings toward food are extremely accurate for anyone suffering from the disease, and it provides a lot of awareness for those that don't know what it's like to literally starve yourself.
Anna is driven by the love and dedication of her husband. Dealing with an eating disorder is hard, and this book does not shy away from that pain. However, it also provides hope. Between the interactions with the other girls at 17 Swann Street and her own life, this book grabs you and gets you invested in each of their stories.
The way this book is written makes it very real. The author alludes in the acknowledgments section to having had her own struggles with the disease, and this comes through in a positive way in the writing.