110 of 116 people found the following review helpful
on 8 July 2014
.....only with different names. This is basically How To Be a Woman all over again, only the heroine's surname is Morrigan not Moran. Actually had to stop a couple of times to check I hadn't accidentally picked up the other book by mistake. There is not much new here.
Moran is a very funny writer, but please. Also all the reviews calling it a "debut novel"? Come on, she's been writing books for decades. She is essentially the female Kingsley Amis: you get the same entertaining, but far too familiar book again, and again, and again. How many home schooled working class 90s teens from Wolverhampton do we need to hear about for her to acknowledge, we got the point?
This seems to be written for adults who want to read the YA fiction they wish they had in the 90s instead of real books. OK for all that but I expected more. Moran has a lot of talent. Here's hoping someone pushes her to write about something other than herself next time.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The author begins this book by saying emphatically that this story is NOT based on her own life or character. But if you know Moran's work through Raised by Wolves or her other non-fiction work How to Be a Woman, it feels instantly familiar and a smooth continuation of the same character’s story. Sorry Caitlin, but the subjects are so close to each other, the setting and happenings so similar, it's hard not to make the comparison. But that's not to the book's detriment. I loved it.
Johanna Morrigan is our Girl, she's a Wolverhampton council estate teen, who wants to be a music journalist. Taking the Bull(ring?) by the horns, she sends off her work and manages to land herself a job. Johanna leaves school in Wolverhampton for London life, but only after deciding she needs a life makeover and transforms herself into wildchild and party girl Dolly Wilde. Will this new identity serve her well?
Johanna experiments within her new identity, discovering alcohol, drugs, and sex among other things. And a note here: fairly explicit sexual scenes, though funny as hell! Her job allows her to review bands, but she writes mostly evil reviews of bands she doesn't like. Which of course will not bode well for our heroine.
The book is a series of one hilarious exploit after another. Through it all, we can see her losing herself and her direction, it flirts with darkness as we watch Johanna / Dolly being used (it is quite sad and frightening in what COULD happen to her) –she is, after all, only 17.
Back at home in Wolverhampton, Johanna's family are just as enjoyable and eccentric as we see in Moran's other writing - a possibly gay brother, a Dad who wants that ‘one’ big hit from his own music, a bolshy Mum overtired from new twins. Johanna clearly loves her family and does a lot for them, feeling responsible for them - she always remains sympathetic, despite her mistakes and ridiculous actions.
There are some particularly funny scenes (one that reminded me of Fanny Hill with a ‘large appendage’ – and doesn’t end well!), and it does feel as though the author may have structured it with another TV series in mind, it would be hilarious. I thoroughly enjoyed Johanna's misadventures, and the moral behind her adolescent's experiences.
Moran and I share a hometown, and her life there comes over as quite deprived, but she still manages to retain a slight fondness for the place, and I loved reading reference to places I also love from my own childhood. Prince Albert statue et al.
If you enjoy rude humour, lots of sexual exploits and adolescent tales of kiss-and-tell and coming of age - try Moran's fiction. She knows how to make you laugh, and how to create a flawed but sympathetic Black Country heroine.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 26 July 2014
This is How To Be A Woman - re-named, re-packed and re-cycled as a shallow money-making exercise by Moran and her publishers.
It's almost as if she went through all the discarded notes/entries for HTBAW and used them here. Lazy, unconvincing and - at times - a bit sexist.
Couldn't she have at least have changed the story location from Wolverhampton? I'm amazed the editor didn't demand this.
22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on 26 August 2014
It’s ironic that a novel about a young woman who becomes a music journalist is like listening to a monkey endlessly pounding out the same two notes on a piano.
Moran is a good writer, stylistically you cannot fault her, but her subject matter has now officially not just worn thin, but completely and utterly worn through. Despite the disclaimer at the beginning, this is really just a warming-over of her own story, already well and truly milked in How to be a Woman and squeezed even further dry by her columns.
The only thing that I can see is different between her own life is the number of siblings. As is well documented, Moran is one of eight, in this novel there are “only” five children, with the youngest twins. Mercifully, this lets the reader off of her regular entrenched proselytising about the welfare state and her belief that having almost a football team of children when you have no hope at all of financially supporting them at all is some kind of noble enterprise.
Most worrying of all is the ending; it is left quite open, with the heroine’s move to London. I have a feeling that this is not the last we’ll hear of Dolly Wilde.
Water finds its level; Moran is unlikely to rise any furhter than this until she finds some new subject matter. Even enfants terribles all need to grow up some day.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 3 February 2015
When I read the forward and preface to this book I admit I was concerned that I was about to read the earnest, heartfelt, and completely uninteresting prose/blog of a bright, sincere teenager. Boy, am I a dope, or what?
This book is, in fact, earnest, heartfelt, sincere and bright. It is also searingly funny, completely engaging, bawdy, rowdy, and brutally honest. This is not a lost-to-drugs-and-back story, or a tale of redemption after hitting bottom, or a melodrama fancied up with some new age or self-help wisdom.
It is an honest, rueful, deadpan story about growing up, spiced with exaggeration for effect, naughty bits, some cutting self examination, a few romantic touches, and lots of cheerfully lacerating observations about life, families, society, and the music business.
This only works, or at least it will only hold book length attention, if the reader can connect with some fundamentally sound aspect of the narrator. I'm not doing 300 pages of train wreck. I might do 300 hundred pages of funny train wreck. I absolutely won't go near 300 pages of poor-victim-me train wreck. Well, this author, (or, actually the character she created), can come over to my house, drink too much wine, and tell stories all night, and that will be fine by me. (Actually, the actual author can come too, since she's probably alright as well.) (By the way, the heroine's name is "Johanna Morrigan". "Morrigan" is a figure from Irish mythology and is considered the goddess of 'battle, strife, and sovereignty'. Could there possibly be a better name for this character? No. For that touch alone you should read this book.)
But this is not just an extended stand-up comedy act or a string of clever zingers hung together to look like a novel. Our heroine follows an unconventional but dramatic path to some reasonable form of enlightenment and self-invention. You know that old chestnut that all fiction is either "a stranger rides into town or a man goes on a trip"? Well, here, Johanna Morrigan definitely goes on a trip, and it may be long, strange and wild, but we all eventually end up in an unexpected and satisfying place. What a nice find.
Please note that I received a free advance ecopy of this book in exchange for a candid review. Apart from that I have no connection at all to either the author or the publisher of this book.
43 of 50 people found the following review helpful
on 9 July 2014
I'm a fan of Caitlin and wanted to like this, bug it was a big disappointment. It covers the exactly same ground as the autobiographical 'How to be a woman' and Caitlin's sitcom 'Raised by wolves', ie being an overweight, unpopular teenage girl raised in a large, poor family in the Midlands. Caitlin only seems capable of writing about herself - which works well for her column, but not for what is supposedly a work of fiction.
This book really doesn't have much in the way of a plot, and I suspect it would never have been published if written by a lesser-known author. At times, the writing felt forced. I read that Caitlin really struggled to write this book, needing lots of encouragement and intervention from her publishers, and I suspect it's because she's already written extensively about the subject matter and had nothing new to say. How much can you milk the experience of being being poor/living in a big family before people get bored? Well, I'm bored. And this book came across as a cynical money-making effort rather than a work of true creativity.
If you haven't already read it, I recommend the excellent 'How to be a woman' instead. If you have already read it, don't bother with this 'new' book, which is truly nothing new.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on 14 July 2014
A typically funny read from Caitlin Moran, although I could have done without the frequent references to the subject's frantic teenage masturbation...especially when conducted rather disturbingly next to her younger sleeping brother.
I was also disappointed to find a duplicated passage (literally word for word) from Moranthology - the description of her job interview with a newspaper and joke about the line from the film Annie. I haven't finished the book yet so am hoping there won't be any more repetition.
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 21 July 2014
Having read 'How to be a Woman' and publicly cried with laughter reading it on my daily commute, I pre-ordered 'How to build a girl' anticipating another great read from Caitlin Moran. However, I was bitterly disappointed. Whilst Moran states that this book is entirely fiction and the main character of Johanna is not based on herself, the similarities with descriptions of her own childhood are uncanny. The character essentially has exactly the same upbringing and early career as Moran and you can't help but think all the scenes are based on anecdotes from Moran's own wild lifestyle in the 90s music scene. This book seems lazy. There is nothing new here besides the over the top, unnecessarily descriptive accounts of a teenage girl's sex life which leave you feeling slightly uncomfortable and I'm not usually one to be prudish at all.
It seems to me that Moran lazily rushed out a book based on her own life which she has already written about rather than use her imagination to come up with a new story and littered it with vulgar scenes in order to be 'controversial' and 'shocking'. Perhaps she should stick to non-fiction. I can relate to that and it and has had me in tears both with laughter and anguish.
I cannot recommend this book but I strongly recommend you buy How to be a Woman instead as that is a book that truly touches the heart and changes how you feel about being a woman.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 24 April 2015
Moran is interesting in 200-word newspaper columns. But in large doses? I enjoyed the book for a while. Then its louchely elbowing insistence became tedious. I finished it without enthusiasm.
It's of a piece with her rushed, tumbling speech in interviews, thrusting forward, interrupting, rattling through rehearsed anecdote after rehearsed anecdote inappropriate for the conversation but ! It will get a laugh ! It will hold centre stage ! Pay attention ! Pay attention ! Pay attention to ME ! ! ! -- Yes. We're paying attention. What would you like us to learn from you? -- Er... There isn't enough love in the world, and we should be nicer to one another! -- Ah. Thank you.
Maybe that's what one has to do as one of a dozen children if one is to be noticed at all; be the one who never walks, only tap-dances. "If I can't be graceful, I'll be loud." But oh, what a relief for everyone else, when Caitlin leaves the room, when the clatter stops.
28 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on 15 July 2014
Really disappointing. I was hoping for a well-written, decent novel, as Moran's columns are always a great read, but this seemed to be written on a 'write-whatever-springs-to-mind-and-edit-it-later-oops-ran-out-of-time-so-it-didn't-get-edited' basis. Such a shame - I had been looking forward to it.