Friday, 26 June 2009


An Education by Lynn Barber

I've just finished reading this memoir in two sunny afternoons sitting in the garden. I've long been a fan of Barber's interviews in the Observer. She uses the first person and actually gives her opinion on her subjects, rather than that week's PR angle and her selection of interviewees is so varied. From icons to daytime telly she covers them all with insight and aplomb. I love it when she is in 'Demon Barber' mode, and I love it even more when she falls for the person she is interviewing. She massively raised the profile of art in this country by covering the YBA's and has an unlikely friendship with Tracey Emin.

So when I heard her on talking about her book on Women's Hour while driving back from Devon the other week I got on to Amazon straight away. Her memoir is extraordinary, and quite peculiar at times but is an insight into the 1960's and when Fleet Street was Grubb Street with sexisim, long lunches, booze and cigarettes.

It begins with her relationship with Simon, an associate of Peter Rachmann when she was just 16 which has been turned into a screenplay by Nick Hornby (out this summer starring Carey Mulligan). This affair shaped the adult that she turned out to be, and she notes with sadness on several occasions that it taught her that people are 'unknowable', when after charming her parents and proposing marriage she discovers that he was married with two children. She flings herself wholeheartedly into a life at Oxford in pursuit of pleasure, but you get the feeling that for all her verve and bravado she was brittle, lost and unsure of what she was searching for, until she meets that man who was to become her husband and anchor.

I had no idea that she crafted her journalistic skills by way of Penthouse magazine, or that she wrote a bestselling sex manual! It's a really good read, very open and honest and I raced through it.

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