I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If it gives me pleasure then I don’t feel guilty about it. Although, obviously, if I forced Rob to watch three solid hours of Eastenders then I would feel a twinge or two… I say this because I feel that ought to refer to my love of the works of Jilly Cooper as such a thing, but I just can’t. I adored her shorter, early books in particular – Emily, Prudence, Octavia and all the rest – although I have read some of the more substantial Rutshire chronicles titles and I was very happy to be able to meet her a year or so ago. But I’m not sure that those early novels are quite as innocent as they seemed to me when I was fourteen or so – reading them again as an adult the girls who seemed so sassy and independent were just aching to be part of a couple (even if the object of their affections was a nasty piece of work). Which puts these books, emotionally at least, in the same league for me as Wuthering Heights. Could anyone write books like these, today, but do with it with their feminist credentials intact? Step forward, the fabulous Caitlin Moran……
How to Be Famous is, in my opinion, the book that fits the bill. Like those early Jilly Coopers it features a young woman – nineteen year old Johanna, writing as Dolly Wilde – who finds herself living the life she’s always dreamed of. Writing a column for The Face magazine at the peak of Britpop, meeting the famous and telling the world about them in her own way. She’s bright, just about solvent and watching her best friend in the world become hugely famous. Her family are still a bit flakey – her father trying to recapture his lost youth by taking up residence on her sofa and trying to smoke all the weed in Camden is cringily hilarious – and she has been fighting against male prejudice but things are, on the whole, good. In particular she likes to think of herself as a woman in charge of her own body and her own sex-life (although she’s nowhere near as experienced as the makes out) and she is, until she meets sleazy stand-up comedian Jerry Sharp. When she rejects him she finds that she has bigger problems than making best friend John Kite realise that love is more important than all the fame in the world.
A fun, raunchy read for fans of a feisty romance story. And a lesson for anyone too young to remember the nineties that bad men had ways of making a young woman’s life miserable long before the rise of social media.