My Animals and Other Family by Clare Balding

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My Animals and Other Family by Clare Balding

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Category: Autobiography
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Peter Magee
Reviewed by Peter Magee
Summary: A treasure of a book to read and reread from a sports commentator who really does have something to say. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: September 2012
Publisher: Viking
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0670921461

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Clare Balding was born into a racing family - her father, Ian, was the trainer of Mill Reef who won the Derby in 1971, the same year that Clare was born. Whilst her father would never forget the year that his horse won the Derby he would usually fail to remember that it was also the year of his daughter's birth. Horses came first and they were the priority in Ian Balding's life: the family had to adjust accordingly. He was a gifted and successful trainer who understood the animals in his care and his record, including Mill Reef's Derby success speaks for itself. Clare's childhood was separate from the life of the racing stable but she inherited her family's love of animals.

She and her brother Andrew (who has now taken over the trainer's licence from his father) were largely left to their own devices and they grew up learning about life from their experiences with the huge number of animals which surrounded them. For them, normal family life might include finding that they had the Queen as a guest for breakfast, learning to ride largely by falling off - or having their father heat milk in the kettle because he knew no better.

Each chapter in the book is devoted to one of the ponies, dogs and horses which were part of Clare's childhood and adolescence and she cleverly weaves in the stories of her life. She's frank and honest about her own shortcomings and her family's idiosyncrasies, but what comes through clearly is her genuine love of animals and it speaks volumes that in all the races she rode as a jockey she never used a whip, although - characteristically - she says that it was because she was frightened of falling off.

Clare is best known and widely respected as a sports commentator but this largely came about by accident following a chance encounter with the racing commentator Cornelius Lysaght and which led to her taking over as the BBC's racing presenter after the departure of Julian Wilson. There would be very few who would disagree that she has been a resounding success in sports commentary and elsewhere - as she most recently demonstrated in the 2012 Olympics coverage.

I'm sure that we've all read far too many autobiographies from television personalities when the reality was that they had far too little to say. This book is different: Clare Balding has proved herself to be one of the best - if not the best - sports commentators on television at the moment, but she's also got a real story to tell. It's the sort of sportsbook which comes along all too rarely - cleverly written and a pleasure to read.

If you'd like to know more of life at Kingsclere - Clare's childhood home - we can recommend Making the Running by Ian Balding. You might also enjoy The Masters of Manton: From Alec Taylor to George Todd by Paul Mathieu. Clare Balding has also written a book for children.

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Buy My Animals and Other Family by Clare Balding at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy My Animals and Other Family by Clare Balding at


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