Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Review: My Animal Life

I've never read any of Maggie Gee's novels, but I enjoyed reading her autobiography. Gee grew up in a working-class family and went on to Oxford and a literary career. While Gee has always been committed to a literary life, a life of the mind, Gee's point in her autobiography is that one cannot deny one's animal influences. The memoir is a record of how these animal influences: birth, sex, love, death, have shaped her life. This is also an autobiography about class. Gee came of age at a time when the British class system was being overhauled, and working-class children could first aspire to an upper-class education.

I enjoy autobiographies because I like to see how people make sense of their lives. This one offers an interesting look at the publishing industry, and at the demands of writing. It likewise provides a look at growing up with a difficult and demanding father. For all these things, there were times when I found my interest in the book flagging. Gee is rather liberal in offering advice, which I didn't necessarily need or want. There are also points at which reading about others' animal instincts ceases to be interesting. Most readers will gravitate towards this autobiography because of their interest in Gee's literary career, and those tend to be the best parts of the book. The appeal of this book comes from the fact that Gee is not merely an animal like everyone else, but a writer.

Maggie Gee, My Animal Life (Telegram, 2011) ISBN: 1846599873 

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