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Romany and Tom: A Memoir Hardcover – 13 Feb 2014
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This book reveals him as a comic writer of rare talent ... Neither sentimental nor savage, yet often wise, moving and entertaining within the same paragraph, Romany and Tom is a major achievement to rival any of Watt's recordings (Sukhdev Sandhu, Guardian )
You know when everyone last month was going 'Ben Watt's Romany & Tom is amazing?' I've just read it. It really is (Caitlin Moran)
Romany and Tom may be the most beguiling book you'll read all year ... He has a songwriter's gift for the deft phrase, while his powers of observation and recall are quite extraordinary ... Rather like Watt's musical compositions ... this book is at once downbeat and uplifting (Mail on Sunday)
A poignant, life-affirming work (Financial Times)
INCREDIBLE . I read it in two huge gulps. It's funny, incredibly moving, beautifully written, really thought-provoking (Alexis Petridis)
Forget Morrissey: Romany & Tom is the most beautiful, compelling memoir by a musician you'll read for a very long time (John Niven)
Elegant, crisp and clean ... It's all there in the tiny details Watt captures perfectly: empty fridges, crumpled clothes, the blood pooling on a bathroom floor. He's also good at the lighter moments ... When we find out how Romany and Tom got together ... and how Ben Watt came to be, the effect is like a blow to the heart. Here were two people who were once, inexplicably, deeply in love, who struggled to make everything work, whose past still can't be touched by the son who clearly thought the world of them. Near the end of the book, he writes: "They just let me be to get on with it, working things out for myself." The result of their love, on this evidence, has worked things out very well (Jude Rogers, Observer)
[An] elegantly written and clear-sighted memoir ... Romany and Tom is a tender work infused with the understanding that this is the final chapter of two rich and complex lives ... Watt's reluctance to sentimentalise the experience makes it that much more powerful, cutting to the heart of the frustrations that come with caring for one's parents who were, not long ago, just like us (Independent on Sunday)
It is a beautiful book, a story which will resonate with many and in many different ways. There are moments when I laughed and parts when I had to stop reading for a bit, draw breath and then continue (Gideon Coe, BBC 6 Music)
Watt has written about personal trauma before in his 1996 memoir Patient. This . pulses with the same combination of clarity and kindness. Unsentimental and humane (Telegraph)
An extraordinary achievement. A moving, funny and beautifully written memoir by musician, DJ and writer Ben Watt which carefully chronicles his parents' lives, their marriage and their decline into old ageSee all Product description
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Ben is probably best known as a musician and songwriter, one half of EBTG with Tracey Thorn, DJ, “Buzzin’ Fly” producer. But he is also a very good writer indeed, if not exactly prolific. He should write more, instead of a book every twenty years or so. His previous autobiography (also essential reading), “Patient” (Penguin 1996) was centred on the life threatening auto-immune disease that he contracted in 1992. “Romany and Tom” is indeed a portrait of Ben’s mum and dad, but much more than that, it has a wider focus; in Ben’s words, it is “about who we are, where we come from, and how we love and live with each other for a long time.” Clearly, these are the universal themes of literature and life. Happy families may well be all alike, (i.e. dull and not very inspiring as far as creativity and drama are concerned), and every unhappy family may be unhappy in its own way, but perversely, the idiosyncrasies of sadness are really the things which bring us together and connect us. The narrative takes us through the changing relationships and dynamics of Romany and Tom and Ben and his wider family. The years unfold, and with the wisdom of experience and personal insight, Ben unwraps the human frailties of his parents, and also himself. He is equally insightful about his own life, the shift in responsibilities from parent to child and how most of us struggle to do the best we can, yet perhaps still beat ourselves up in the process. But this is by no means a one note “misery memoir”. It draws a multi-faceted portrait, engagingly informative about music and journalism, addiction and marriage, success and depression, love and its opposite . Above all however, it is laced with humour; funny as only a recognised truth can be. I’m tempted to say that Ben puts the “fun” into “dysfunctional”, but that would be flippant. Yes it is a cliché to say it, but like all good books, Ben’s story really will draw you in. There are so many touchstones and shared recognitions here for almost everyone. Although this is a story of a single family, the decisions and dilemmas are likely to be familiar to many, particularly anyone with ageing parents. And like all good writing, the style appears to be simple and effortless, a bit like Larkin (who Ben mentions), disguising the level of underlying formal control. I suspect this book was years in the making. Ben does not follow a direct chronological structure, moving backwards in time but maintaining an internal clarity throughout. And in fact this allows the narrative to become almost a detective story, and a real page-turner in the last part. But the book is much more than that. It should be savoured. There are few enough books about kindness, and despite his misgivings, Ben is a kind man. Yes, you should buy this book. And Ben, you really should write more
I've sung along in the car with Ben and Tracey on and off since about 1985, but know little else about them. Part of the reason I started going out with my wife in 1990 was because our record collections overlapped a bit around the LPs Eden and the Marine Girls.
Anyway, we finally saw Ben live for the first time (with Bernard Butler) at a lovely low key gig in Nottingham a few weeks ago. The music was great, his guitar and keyboard playing always lights up part of my brain, but there was more wistfulness to the songs than I expected.
So I took the book on holiday this summer to Skye. It's a tough story about his talented and successful parents, about their affair, their weaknesses, careers and about how they got old.
If you are a contemporary, dealing with children, ageing parents and the middle of your career, this book provides a chance to reflect on each age and how we end up being who we are.
It's a great story by a great man, and his singing wife who does understand.
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