Book Review: Not the Type by Camilla Thurlow

Not the TypeTitle: Not the Type by Camilla Thurlow
Genre: Biography, Feminism, Non-Fiction
Publisher: Metro Publishing
Publication Date: 20th August 2020
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Rating: ★★★★

Camilla Thurlow came second on Love Island in 2017. More recently, she impressed viewers in Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins. But that's not the most interesting part . . .

Camilla can do something that none of her fellow contestants can do: find, neutralise and destroy the landmines that threaten the lives and livelihoods of so many people in the world's former war zones, and which make their land too dangerous to be worked.

This is at once a memoir of an extraordinary life, and a script for living one's life to the full. Camilla Thurlow is a highly independent woman whose thoughts and experience will resonate with anyone seeking meaning in a world where women are too often discounted, or who frequently feel alienated amid the frenzy of contemporary life.

This is a book about courage - not just the courage to go out and deal with a lethal threat in some of the world's most dangerous and inhospitable places, but the courage to confront one's own fears and anxieties, and to be oneself in what too often seems an inhospitable world.

Not the Type will inspire a whole generation to dare the seemingly impossible. Although often an engaging reflection on life, landmines and Love Island, this is also a book about learning to confront one's own anxieties in a world dominated by celebrity culture and social media - and on being a woman in what is still too often a man's world.

I was drawn to this book because of the interesting contrast of the cover – the girlie pink background with the serious military-style clothes on Camilla in the foreground.  This reflects exactly what the book ended up offering, a look at the thoughts and experiences of an incredibly complicated, multifaceted woman.

I was well prepared, even as someone who isn’t particularly a Love Island fan, to expect some juicy gossip from the show, but Thurlow discusses her experience on television in a very honest and reflective way.  She does a good job of selling the show to a skeptic like me; she saw it as being about friendship and human connection, rather than the raunchy naughtiness that it is too often known for.  I enjoyed her explanation of her journey onto the show – the application process, the auditions and photo shoots.  It was a really interesting behind-the-scenes peek at the not-so-glamorous labour that goes into making reality TV.

You can reinvent yourself, you can change, you can grow, you can regress, you can be any number of things at any particular time.  Please give yourself permission to do that, and be equally open-minded to others who choose to do the same.  Because perhaps, with just a little more compassion and acceptance, we won’t need to fit in to feel that we belong.

Despite her being known for her appearance on Love Island, she actually has an incredibly interesting work history.  Before appearing on the show, she worked for charity The HALO Trust, travelling between war-torn countries clearing landmines.  The majority of the book covers her unique experience as a female de-miner in a role typically dominated by men.

She shares anecdotes of her experiences, as well as the stories of others, many of which are truly heartbreaking.  She is open about the fact that she suffers from PTSD, carrying much guilt from her time spent in such volatile living conditions.  Many people living in the mine-ridden communities have lost limbs, family members, and their livelihoods; you can see that these stories hurt her deeply, and I found her compassion for fellow humans humbling.  As an advocate for the work of the charity, she has done a great job of educating her readers – she may even have made a future doner of me.

After the fascinating stories of her work abroad, the later chapters on social media did lose my interest a bit, especially as they spoke quite generally about the topic rather than stories personal to her.  I’ve read a fair few feminist books that cover social media, so it is likely that I just have a bit of reader’s fatigue on the subject.  This is why this title loses a star for me, as I feel the end did not quite live up to the excitement of the rest of the book.

Other than that, I read the book in just a few days, and thoroughly recommend it to anyone whose self-esteem needs a boost.  Thurlow proves that stepping out of your comfort zone can reap incredible results, and supporting others is what can give your life true meaning.  I feel genuinely positive and uplifted after reading about Camilla’s experiences, and will be a keen viewer of any future TV shows she might appear on!

Happy reading!

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