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Review - The Truth About Hormones - Vivienne Parry
Vivienne Parry begins her book with a little reassurance that the whole business of hormones is "basically easy". It's not, she tells us "string theory or mobile [cell] phone contracts." That's all right, then. Or at least it should be, though I have to say I found the rest of the introductory section titled "A bluffer's guide to hormones" to be about on a par with most basic introductions to string theory, but a lot less interesting, as it plodded through the different types of hormone and how hormones work. It's not that a book like this doesn't need the basics - in fact, if anything it needs more than there is here - but they can be presented in the interesting and enticing way that was suggested by that introductory reassurance, rather than like a high school textbook.
To be fair, things get significantly better when Parry moves on from the basics of hormones to what they do for (and to) us. Different sections explore our two big hormone explosions - around birth and puberty - environmental impact, the effect of hormones on our bodies and perhaps most significantly the balance of control between us and our hormones, especially as we begin to modify them more and more.
Along the way there are some interesting stories that capture the attention, like the eye catching statement that drugs for IVF were originally made using the urine of Vatican nuns, but it's telling that even when the publisher pulls out half a dozen key "fascinating stories" in their publicity, they are reduced to "if you drop a thyroid hormone tablet into your kids' tadpole jam-jar you'll have frogs by morning." Interesting, certainly, but hardly riveting.
I really wanted to enjoy this book. It was a subject I thought (I still do think) I wanted to find more about, but despite the friendly approach of the author I found it impenetrable and often dull. There's lots of good information in there, and if you need to find out about hormones it's a good start, but it could have been better.
Only in paperback
Reviewed by Jo Reed
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Last update 05 June 2007