Harriet Rowland was diagnosed with a rare cancer when she was 17. This book is based on the blogs she decided to keep, and which she continued to write until shortly before she died in March 2014, at the age of 20.
What comes through every entry and all the photos is Hat’s wonderful personality, strength and sense of humour. Throughout the book are quotations from another remarkable book about terminal illness, John Green’s The Fault in our Stars, which clearly had a huge impact on Harriet, who has her own collection of remarkable comments and stories.
Hat’s story is one of a hugely courageous young woman, determined to make the most of every minute that she was well enough to enjoy. Her family and friends provided total support and love, as would any family in similar circumstances, and she talks about that a great deal. What stands out to me is her total commitment to doing as much as she possibly could, despite the rigours of cancer treatment, operations and long periods of hospitalisation. Her blog does not spare any details, and so even if you knew nothing about chemotherapy drugs before you read this book, you certainly will afterwards!
But her story is told with a total lack of self-pity, as in this quote: “It’s simple, I am dying, there is no changing this fact, so if something makes me happy I have been doing it”.
And also with such a nutty sense of humour, like this: “Later I went to my boyfriend’s house and watched him get dressed up in his beautiful prefect’s uniform. It left me howling on the floor. I suggest if anyone is feeling down they should watch their boyfriend dress up in a kilt!”
Despite the awful treatments and side effects of cancer drugs, Harriet was able to enjoy the short time she had remaining, and even managed a trip to Europe with a dear friend. Her positive attitude shines through everything and this is a gutsy, inspiring book.
I recommend it to anyone – but particularly to those who have friends or relatives who are dealing with cancer or any other life-threatening illness. It is happy, sad, funny, poignant, thought-provoking and inspiring all at once. Harriet Rowland was a remarkable, brave, clever, loving young woman whose life was tragically all too brief.
Read her book.
Reviewed by Sue Esterman
The Book of Hat
by Harriet Rowland
Published by Submarine Books