Please note – I received a free copy of this book. All comments and opinions are my own and honestly held.
Just before Christmas I was perplexed but pleased to receive a copy of Clare Balding’s autobiography, My Animals and Other Family, in the post. A little while later I remembered that some months previously I had put my name in the hat to receive a free copy as part of the BritMums Book Club and realised that this must be the source of my hitherto enigmatic freebie.
Having only ever read Victorian autobiographies before, I was pleased to have the opportunity to read a more modern example of the genre, particularly as I have long admired Clare Balding. She has always seemed to be the epitomy of professionalism to me and her success in a largely male-dominated area of work is something that stands out, as does her warmth in conducting interviews and presenting. Like many others, I also thought she was the star presenter of the Olympic Games coverage on the BBC in 2012 and was intrigued to find out more about her.
As you might guess from the title, animals were central to Clare’s life growing up and in her autobiography she talks about some of the important relationships she forged with her’s and her family’s dogs and horses during those formative years. While I am not a horsey person per se – I had friends who were when I was younger and always found that their shared passion left me out in the cold (figuratively and, sometimes, literally), which rather took any gloss off the pursuit for me – I was nevertheless captivated by Clare’s story and her experiences with these beautiful, graceful creatures. The animal that stood out the most for me though was Candy, the faithful boxer who jumped out of a window when she thought Clare was being abducted! (If you haven’t read the book, it’s worth picking up a copy for this anecdote alone, and rest assured, Candy was okay after hurtling herself out of said first floor window).
Each chapter focuses on a different animal from Clare’s life, gently guiding us through her younger years. I found this quite a nice way of structuring the book but occasionally it did feel like the animal had been somewhat shoehorned in as not all of the stories Clare has to tell involve or centre around four legged friends (and I’m not suggesting that they should, but I found that at times I was contemplating the structure and wondering where the animal had gone to in all this rather than concentrating on the details being shared). That though is a small quibble and Clare has an engaging writing style which made this an easy read.
Clare has many interesting stories to tell but the thing that most struck me was the fact that she seemed to grow up in a world where a boy was worth more than a girl (ditto a man than a woman). I admired Clare’s tenacity and her prevailing feminism in the face of these attitudes; I hope that if I had been faced with the same growing up I would still be firmly in the equality camp but it must be a lot more challenging to subscribe to that view if those around you don’t necessarily hold it to be true.
The book stops (a little abruptly for my liking) when Clare is 20, with a short précis over two pages of the years that follow, taking us up to the present day and I have to admit, it is probably those years that most interested me, so if Clare brings out a follow-up, I’ll be making some time to read that one!
Have you read Clare’s autobiography? Are you a fan of the genre or does something else float your boat?
Look out for more book reviews on the blog in future – I’m reading Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty at the moment, only 100-odd pages to go! I’ve decided to try not to buy any books this year – that might sound a hardship but I have a whole library’s worth of books lying around the house waiting to be read so I’ve decided I should turn my attention to them before making any more purchases!
*I was provided with a free copy of Clare Balding’s autobiography. All views and opinions expressed are my own.*