Review: My Animals & Other Family
Charley enjoys life in the saddle with Clare Balding
When I put my hand up to review Clare Balding’s new book, I didn’t exactly know what I was getting myself in for. I’ve never been overly interested in the autobiography genre, which I’m fairly certain is where the text will lie; however I have always had a passion for animals which the title, My Animals and Other Family, told me this book was about.
After two solid days of reading (I was hooked – I couldn’t put the book down) never again will I steer away from autobiography-esque books. While the book may weave throughout Balding’s life, taking you on a significant journey through her animals and her troublesome childhood, it provides so much more than a strict account of her past – it provides laugh out loud entertainment!
Each chapter, which is marked by an animal from her past, delves into the grubby details of her yester years; merrily and openly discussing the antics her and her younger brother dabbled in when they were younger, and of course discussing her precious animals that she seems to think have shaped the woman she is today.
The book is written perfectly! Each chapter unfolds a new stage in Balding’s life with things finally being neatly tied up in her Epilogue. It is in this section of the novel when Balding also offers this:
I went out with a few more boys, because that’s what I thought I was meant to do, taking them out like books from the library and returning them when I didn’t get into the story. I did not treat them well, and didn’t much like the way I was around them. It was another few years before I realized I’d been looking in the wrong section of the library.
She later moves on to discuss her civil partnership with long-term partner Alice, who she has been with for ten years. There is a refreshing honesty to be found in the way she discusses the matter of her sexuality with what, I imagine by now, is an audience of thousands of people. The following idea that not only is Alice adored by her parents, but also a worthy golf component for her father, makes the situation even sweeter by creating what seems to be a real-life happy ever after. Their lives, so Balding claims, revolve around the needs of Archie, the Tibetan Terrier, and I for one was delighted the finish the book on the same note with which it had been started: complete devotion to animals.
The animal inside
I will admit there were several occasions when I was brought to tears (that’s more of a reflection on me than it is the book) as I read accounts of family pets that passed away and horses that had their racing days cut short. However it is this emotional heartbreak that makes the book what it is; and what it is, is a bloody enjoyable read. The self-closure as we follow Clare through a journey from mischievous childhood pranks through the teenage years (where, I was glad to know, Clare didn’t fit in with the ‘in’ girls either – glad it wasn’t just me!) and finally leading us to more present day activities, including her finally gaining her degree, after being turned down/not getting the necessary grades the first time, and her booming career as a presenter that she expresses a genuine love for.
For an animal lover, or indeed in Clare Balding enthusiast, I simply can’t recommend this book enough. It gives you everything: laughter, tears, outright dread as you are left wondering what exactly her and her brother will do in the next chapter! It really is a must-read and I for one cannot wait for Clare’s next bestseller.