The Woman Who Cracked the Anxiety Code by Judith Hoare is a superb book on the life of Claire Weekes. A woman born in Australia in 1903, the eldest of four children, she became thoroughly immersed in her education, eventually receiving a degree in zoology through her work with viviparous reptiles and their reproductive differences. She later became a GP also. She began travelling the globe giving lectures until, unexpectedly, one day she experienced the shortness of breath, the pounding heart, the feelings of butterflies in the stomach that many of us get from time to time: anxiety. She thought it was a sinister portent of things to come, but an associate, who she came close to marrying, told her to calm down, it was simply a feeling that most men got during the World War One battle conditions in France. Then, as a light dawned on her, she began yet another career as a pioneering anxiety counsellor.

The book sets out to inform us about her incredible life thereafter. At first she was largely ignored by many eminent, ‘male’ psychiatrists for her beliefs, until her series of self-help books, pertaining to anxiety, hit the bookshelves, and gained an astonishing reputation. She became an overnight sensation globally, with people claiming they had been completely cured by her books after years of suffering. Then began a lifelong pursuit of caring for people, either by phone, or television, post, or even having them stay with her at home. She made numerous friends all around the world as she went from strength to strength, but, at the same time, she also fell in with a few charlatans.

This well-documented book is a superb look at how an Australian woman made such a difference to many. She struggled with a difficult family, both sponsoring them in times of duress or else nursing them when illness became a curse. It was a tough life from beginning to end, but so rewarding for her.

The author has done her job magnificently; Judith Hoare has included several photographs of people within Claire Weekes’ orbit. They reveal a rather matronly woman, a woman who lived for others all her life, and lived a full life throughout.

Reg Seward 5*

The Woman Who Cracked the Anxiety Code by Judith Hoare
Scribe UK 9781912854165 pbk Sep 2019