Monday, 10 February 2014

Book club - Mary Berry: Recipe for Life

I adore Mary Berry. 

Genuinely, I absolutely love her. If, in 50 years time, I'm anywhere near as talented, as active and as glamorous as she is I will consider my life well lived. She's awesome.

Up until I read her autobiography - Recipe for Life - I would've said that I love literally everything about her and it would've been true. But I did not love this book. In parts I didn't even like this book. 

See, here's the thing: Recipe for Life is just not that interesting. I think there are three main reasons for this. 

The first is that, if you watched the BBC documentary about lovely Mary's life (The Mary Berry Story), there's not a lot that's new in the narrative of the book. The narrative is interesting - especially the parts about Mary's early battle with polio and, later, the tragic death of one of her sons - but if you watched the documentary you know all of this already. Yes, you get more detail but it's difficult to get too excited about a story you already know.

Especially as the style that story is written in is so saccharine it'll strip the enamel from your teeth. I feel genuinely quite harsh saying this, as the style and voice are very authentically and recognisably Mary. Words like 'dishy', 'scrummy' and 'gosh' are one of the things that make Mary so, well, Mary. But what is so appealing and sweet over the course of an hour long episode of Bake Off becomes pretty grating over the course of a 350 page book. Maybe it's just me (it usually is, I find) but it's all just too Jolly Hockey Sticks for me. 

I also have issues with some of the content selection. There's one chapter - out of I think 19 - about Bake Off and, frankly, it's just not very interesting. If you're looking for backstage gossip or interesting 'making-of' tidbits then go elsewhere. There's also one chapter entirely devoted to Mary's love of gardening which is, at least to me, mind-numbingly dull. And should gardening really get the same number of chapters in this book as Bake Off? I rather think not.  

There's also a running theme of 'I hated school and reading' running through the book which sometimes reads like disdain for people who liked school and enjoy reading. I don't think this is intentional - if it is, writing an autobiography is weird! - but it irked me sufficiently for me to notice.

It's not that this book is bad, and if you haven't seen that documentary it's probably really interesting, but it's not great either. Which is a shame. Because criticising Saint Bezza makes me feel like an utter shit.

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