By Sian Busby
Short Books pound;5.99
In 1869, Sarah Jacobs was a bright, pretty, precocious 12-year-old. For her station, that of the middle daughter of a hardworking Welsh farmer, she was learned. She could read in Welsh and English, was beloved by her parents and siblings and was, strangely, a source of income for the inhabitants of Llanfihangel, the remote Cardiganshire hamlet in which she lived.
What was her unique selling point? It's a ghastly story, and one with resonances for today's body-conscious, anorexia-haunted adolescents.
From as far away as London, experts and the curious trooped to see the "Welsh fasting girl", sometimes dropping money on the blanket of her scrupulously clean bed, sometimes tipping those who showed them the steep, muddy route from the station at Pencader Junction.
Sarah was a national phenomenon, discussed in the correspondence columns of the press: a blooming young girl who had gone two years without eating.
Read the review in full in this week's TES. Friday features will continue to appear in the paper through the summer, but the magazine will return in all its glory on September 3 2004