You know all this talking how lockdown brought people closer together and made them nicer? Well, I’ve actually seen some of it happened in my block of flats, small scale, but there’s a difference. I think most of the apartments are for rent, it is London, so you can safely assume no one knows any of their neighbors.
First, a couple from the ground floor put a note in the building lobby, that they would be happy to help anyone with the groceries etc., that was when the toilet roll craze was happening. Then someone put a few cooking utensils on a bench in the lobby, in perfectly usable condition. Then we had an avocado tree, just grown from the pit offered for adoption and finding a new home within an hour. Then a few books… that’s when I decided to join, for the last four weeks each week I leave five books for my neighbors to help themselves. They’re usually gone within a day. Then of one of them left this one and I decided to grab it.
Now another digression before I jump in. I do not own a TV, I’ve been told countless times I will never fully understand the British culture without one. And I think I’ve come to accept that. Hence my knowledge of British TV personalities is scant at best. Yet, I’ve seen Jo Brand in some of the talk shows and I always enjoyed it. Also, the subtitle of the book is How To Do Female, so that caught my eye too.
Now, what happened later is I think mismatch of expectations. I expected something viciously feminist and funny. What I got is almost a self-help book, with a kind of feminist slant and a few jokes. It doesn’t’ even make fun of the self-help book genre too much. Which is a pity, because bar the romance genre I think self-help books are the ones that deserve the most pastiche. Also this despite my expectations is not a pastiche.
I feel like the book is directed at a lot younger audience than I. Teenagers, probably? Brand writes about managing family holiday, handling the society’s obsession with beauty and fashion, friends, bullies, falling in love. She does write about feminism, as well as how to stay safe (which reminded me about The Right Amount of Panic). A lot of her writing focuses, apart from joking, on the importance of mental health. Which is good and needed, but also at some point sounds a bit like preaching, hence my thought I’m not the intended audience here.
I understand how a book like this may be important for someone entering their teenage years. It matters to have someone tell you it’s ok to be weird and different and it’s ok not to feel fine. I’m just past that stage in my life. On the flip side, there is also a chapter about parenting, so that would undermine my theory, but it is just one.
All in all, a bit of a disappointment. Easy read at the beginning, but at some point, the chapters feel repetitive. I won’t be pushing it into people’s hands, but equally, I won’t’ discourage anyone from reading it. Or argue someone who loved it. I’ll stick to watching Jo Brand on talk shows, shallow it may be, but honest.