Saturday, 12 July 2014

BOOK REVIEW: "The Wrong Knickers - A Decade of Chaos", by Bryony Gordon

Bryony Gordon has written for the Telegraph for 14 years. That means I was eight when she started. Although my parents have been getting the paper every day for decades (yup, we're that kinda family), I'm fairly certain I didn't read it as an eight-year-old. I was obviously far too preoccupied by Polly Pockets, Barbies and Jelly Cat dolls (yup, I was that kinda gal.)

It must've been around the start of my teens that I started reading the paper, and it was always Bryony's pieces I loved the most. It may sound lame, but I would genuinely say to my mum, "Yes! Bryony's got an article today!" Mum's a big fan too.

Her writing is just brilliant (Bryony, that is, not my mum.. no offence, Madre), and has always been a massive inspiration to me.

(Lame fact: when I joined twitter I copied the format of her username - first name underscore last name.)

Witty, relatable, entertaining... I, like everyone else, particularly loved Bryony's weekly "Single girl about town" column. And it was through the column that we all got to know Bryony, all feeling like we really did know her.

I did a week's work experience at the Telegraph a few years ago and saw Bryony in the corridor once. I was too nervous to say hi, but then tweeted her and she so sweetly replied saying I definitely should've just spoken to her.

A year later at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee picnic at Buckingham Palace (because that's just how I roll), my mum turned to me and said, "Rach, I think Bryony Gordon's just walked past us!"

"What?!" I replied, whipping round to see for myself. And without thinking I went over to Bryony to say hi and introduce mum and myself. We had a lovely little chat, even making it into Bryony's piece in the paper the next day. THAT, was pretty exciting.

I mean, how cool a job is that? Getting to go the Queen's Diamond Jubilee picnic at Buckingham Palace and then write about it?! AND BE PAID TO DO SO!?

And over the years it's been lovely to follow Bryony's life through her articles and see her career go from strength to strength. She may have an army of loyal twitter followers but still takes the time to reply to my messages and emails asking for career advice.

Did I mention I'm a bit of a fan?

So it was with great excitement that I found out Bryony was writing a book. Yes, let me stop gushing and get on to the book. Sorry.

Before I got it, I knew I'd love it. I downloaded the book as soon as I could, and quelle surprise, it was as good as I'd expected. Maybe even better.

The Wrong Knickers: A Decade of Chaos is the tale of Bryony's crazy twenties. She "survived her adolescence by dreaming about the life she'd have in her twenties: the perfect job; the lovely flat; the amazing boyfriend", and that is 100% me right now. But Bryony's twenties didn't quite turn out like that.

The Wrong Knickers is apparently "essential reading for everyone whose 'best years' weren't quite what they were expecting." But at 21, I'm just starting my 'best years', at the opposite end to Bryony now.

So maybe I'm not the target demographic, but I still loved the book. I sort of see it more as a cautionary tale.

To be honest with you, it would be easy to read The Wrong Knickers in my position and be left feeling pretty depressed. How so? Isn't it funny?

Bien sûr, it's as hilarious as you'd expect. But put it this way: Bryony's twenties weren't the glamorous ones she'd dreamt of, the ones I'm dreaming of now.

In her refreshingly and surprisingly honest book, Bryony spares us no intimate detail of what really can only be described as a decade of chaos.

Her life was absolutely mad, which, naturally, makes for super entertaining reading. It's almost hard to believe some of the incidents really happened to her, but even with the best of imaginations they're too crazy to invent!

You could say Bryony and I are complete opposites. When jokily mocking her "Mr Perfect" and pointing out how different he is to her, Bryony says: "I'm Harry, I don't get pissed, I don't smoke, I don't take drugs." She could have been describing me.

The Wrong Knickers is essentially a book of Bryony's exploits involving drink, cigarettes, drugs and men. It could not be further from my life thus far (although my family are convinced I'm going to go off the rails in my 40s).

However there were still lots of parts I really relate to.

At the beginning, in her naive youth (like moi), Bryony says: "I like the idea of this, of fun being your job. I think that if I become a journalist, I could interview Take That and marry them all, or at the very least one of them." THIS IS SO ME WITH REGARD TO 1D! And I particularly like this gem later on in the book, on the subject of Justin Timberlake: "Every time I hear one of his songs, I feel like my clothes might fall off." She's just telling it like it is, right?

Upon doing her first journalism work placement, Bryony writes: "It is thrilling, it is wonderful. It is absolutely what I want to do." Yup, totally been there.

When ripped off by a landlord: "I am too young, too naive, too clueless about the management of a property to fight back. I just assume that whatever someone older says is right." The problems of youth, right?

As a girl who's never really had a boyfriend, I also related to this little gem about being single: "I realise that I display Lady Gaga-like levels of self-indulgence. I mean, I don't know how to be anything else. I am single. The only person I have to think about is me, me, me." Uhuh, honey.

People used to tell Bryony the problem was that men were intimidated by her. You and me both, girlfriend.

Bryony's also incredibly open about her money struggles. And I'm pretty sure every student can relate to that. "I ferret away croissants from the buffet breakfast, so I won't have to pay for lunch or dinner," she writes. Story. Of. My. Life.

Another subject Bryony tackles wonderfully in my opinion is that of body image.

"I learnt that 'You look like you've lost weight' was the ultimate compliment, and that the response was always along the lines of 'Oh God no, I feel huge, but thank you.'" Does that ring massively true for anyone else too?

And as funny as The Wrong Knickers is, I also found it thought-provoking. "Female self-loathing has been handed down throughout the generations; it has been ingrained in our psyches, etched on our DNA." I think Bryony's totally right on this one. But why? Isn't that sad?

"Being thin was the ultimate goal, although I have no idea why. Did I think it would make me more successful in my career, or help me find lasting love?" We're all kind of led to believe that, aren't we?

Bryony says that looking back on her twenties, the unhealthiest relationship she had wasn't with a man, but with food. And I think that's something more women struggle with than will openly admit it.

The most amazing thing about The Wrong Knickers is how candidly it's written, while still being hilariously entertaining. And guess what? It has a happy ending too.

As I'm sure you can tell, I'd thoroughly recommend The Wrong Knickers, whether your twenties are behind you or still to come. And if, like me, you may be too much of a good girl to have your own decade of chaos (although who knows what may be yet to come!), take the opportunity to live vicariously through someone far more exciting. It's impossible not to finish the book feeling like you've got a new BFF.

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  1. I'm soold! It sounds brilliant, I will have to read it! Thanks for sharing Rachel! :)

  2. Great review. Awesome you got to meet Bryony and end up in her column - what a fab story. Will definitely have to give this a go - we definitely have been waiting for a new Bridget Jones x


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