My Family and Other Disasters by Lucy Mangan

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My Family and Other Disasters by Lucy Mangan

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Category: Autobiography
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Fairhead
Reviewed by Sue Fairhead
Summary: A collection of columns from 'The Guardian' - sometimes amusing, sometimes rather silly, but fun to dip into.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: May 2009
Publisher: Guardian Books
ISBN: 978-0852651247

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Not living in the UK means that we don't have British newspapers. Even when we lived in England, we never bought The Guardian, so I had never actually heard of Lucy Mangan before being sent this book. That's probably not a bad thing, since I began the book - a collection of her Guardian columns - without any preconceptions.

I loved the introduction, written by the deputy editor of The Guardian, describing how he first met Lucy and discovered her talent for writing. He quotes a few amusing lines from some of her columns, too; the introduction certainly inspired me to plunge in and enjoy the book. It's divided into five basic sections: the first one includes columns about the author herself, and some of her oddities. The second has columns about her family, the third about other strange people she has come across. Then the fourth section is columns with general commentary about the world, and the final section is about television shows.

My feelings about the content were mixed. Obviously there is significant artistic license taken when describing family members and situations. At least, I hope so. Some of the situations described are indeed humorous, but unfortunately the funniest lines had already been given in the introduction, meaning that when I came across them in context, I barely smiled. Then there were a few places where I felt an immediate kinship with the author... she comments, for instance, that she had always assumed that solitary confinement in prison was a reward for good behaviour rather than an extreme punishment. An introvert myself, I know exactly what she means. I thoroughly approve of her obsession with books, too.

On the other hand, some of the columns seemed trite, even silly. Perhaps that's inevitable when one has to produce light writing every day, rather than merely when one is so inspired, but it's a pity they had to be included in this collection. On a personal note, I didn't find the final section particularly interesting, but that's because I haven't watched television (other than a few hours when visiting the UK) in about twelve years. I didn't exactly watch much before then, so I didn't even recognise some of the shows mentioned. But those more familiar with British and American TV might well enjoy reading the commentaries.

Lucy Mangan does have a great talent for using exactly the right word, or turn of phrase to convey her thoughts and experiences. I can quite see why she was asked to write a regular column, and could appreciate much of what she says in this book, if only for the way she says it. It wasn't the kind of book I could read at one sitting, or even at several sittings. I found I had to snatch odd moments in the day, and read just a few pages: enough to take in two, or at the most three of the columns. Given that in their original form only one per day was intended to be read, I suppose this is not surprising.

It's the kind of book to take on holiday, to dip into at random moments. The humorous sections would probably be funnier if read aloud to like-minded people over a few glasses of wine. I doubt if I will read it again, but part of our house is a flat for visitors, and this is exactly the kind of book to leave around for guests to pick up and enjoy.

Many thanks to the publishers for sending the book.

If this book appeals then we think you might also enjoy I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being A Woman by Nora Ephron.

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Buy My Family and Other Disasters by Lucy Mangan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy My Family and Other Disasters by Lucy Mangan at


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