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3.5 out of 5 stars
3.5 out of 5 stars
The Importance of Music to Girls
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on 21 August 2013
This is Lavinia Greenlaw's memoir of growing up in the seventies, centred on the music she was listening to. From the last days of prog rock, through the rise of punk, to the new romantics. It's beautifully written, vivid and at times very touching. But also it is puzzling. The bands and the songs she listens to don't seem to mean a lot to her personally, they're more of a statement to the world, a style accessory. And while there's lots of incident and detail, the really significant things seem to happen off-stage: "David, the first boy I'd slept with, was there somewhere around the table."

Okay, so maybe this is really about her inner development, her sense of who she is. But there too she seems reticent, even elusive. Reluctant to identify as a girl at the start of her teens, by the end she's the mother of a child? How did she get there? Sure, we were all awful posers in our teens, but how did this particular "poser" get to become an acclaimed writer with her own original take on the world?
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on 8 September 2008
This is a very different kind of memoir as it focuses on growing up and how music matters in that process.I'm two years younger than the author(and a girl!)so much of what she wrote really resonated with me.
It is often overlooked that music whatever its genre,actually means something to females, so this book has redressed the balance.
I really enjoyed the book and read it over a couple of days.I would throughly recommend it.
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on 11 October 2011
Where are all the rave reviews for this? This isn't about music at all, or only peripherally (the title's a wink!) - it's about Becoming a Person - what in certain circles is called a Bildungsroman. As such it's wise, honest and enchanting
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on 14 March 2012
THis book was the best Christmas present I had this year. As someone else says, it gives rare voice to the crucial role that music plays in growing up for girls. Does it lack humour and sparkle? Possibly, but is none the worse for it. Lavinia Greenlaw is wry, understated and profoundly insightful. She captures the serious business that music is, or was, in this period - the making of a tape for someone as an act of love. I particularly liked her depictions on the callousness of youth - her friend and American penfriend tormenting her over the letters she had asked to be destroyed. At a time when she could make no real connection with her education or surroundings, music appears to have provided the footholds that helped her to clamber towards adulthood, as it did I think for many of us. And the joy and sparkle comes at the very end, when her new baby is lulled to sleep by the music of music talk as the three adults rhapsodise and reminisce over the recordings that her ex boyfriend has lost. I will read more by this author.
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on 14 October 2008
'The Importance of Music to Girls' is an insight into growing up in the 1960s and 1970s in the UK, from the perspective of a girl to whom music meant everything. It is an interesting read and more than just a memoir; more of a social history book. I would recommend it to anyone who has ever loved music above all else.
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on 19 October 2014
I really wanted to love this book, because Greenlaw is a very good poet, and I wanted that sensibility applied to the times and the music that we shared as teenagers in the days of the British punk explosion. And, in her own way, she delivers. Her perspective is fresh, and a distinct relief from the (mostly male) versions of growing up with punk music that broke like a tidal wave after Nick Hornby's "High Fidelity" made writing about pop a respectable trope in literary publishing. There's no hackneyed praise for "Teenage Kicks" and she doesn't repeat the stories of how it felt the first time she heard "Anarchy in the UK"/"New Rose"/The Slits etc etc. Which is a relief.

Instead, Greenlaw places music in the context of her growing up - and finds some fresh things to say as a result.

BUT, as a couple of other reviewers have found, there is also a lot to irritate here.

Greenlaw starts with an arresting image. "At eight," she says, "I jumped through a window and can still remember how the glass billowed and held me before it exploded...nothing has seemed as peaceful since." A few pages later, she says of her child-self, "I had as much capacity for delight as for fear and did not experience any unusual trauma. *All* experience was trauma."

All of which sets the reader up to expect something which Greenlaw never quite delivers. The breaking glass simile isn't earned, so it comes across as artifice. There are a couple of allusions to panic attacks later in adolescence, but no exploration and no reflection from maturity that this, perhaps, is a common condition of childhood and adolescence - this feeling of shock at life and learning, this alienation.

And lordy, doesn't she take herself seriously? Adolescents often do, of course, but this book is written 30 years later, with an adult's sense of perspective. Now, the absence of humour grates and she sounds precious rather than respectful of her younger self.

So I was glad to have read this book, but it hasn't endeared me to Lavinia Greenlaw!
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on 4 August 2013
This worked for me because I'm of a similar age to the author. The lists of records and the descriptions of the time brought back good memories and made me go through my playlists. I'd recommend this to others.
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on 25 October 2015
Excellent book about growing up. Author has made a great book about a subject as slippery as an eel.
Caitlin Moran is in the same ball park but not as good.
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on 24 October 2014
Good value, for uni student so served purpose. Fast delivery, thank you.
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on 21 January 2011
As a lifelong lover of music, I was intrigued to read this book - especially if it was going to be the woman's answer to the likes of High Fidelity. The prose is at times beautifully written, intelligent and vivid, but for me the tone of it lacks sparkle. Where is the wit, the humour? Music is incredibly important but it is also great fun, and yet the earnestness and seriousness displayed in the chapters belies this. The other problem for me is the lack of continuity throughout - it is bitty, jumping backwards and forwards in time, which gives it a disjointed feel. However, niggles aside, I found it worth reading purely because it is a growing-up memoir with music at its heart. Greenlaw knows her stuff about music, and can talk with authority about it. Anyone interested in what it was like to grow up in the 70s and the punk rock explosion would appreciate this. For a truly witty, crackling read about music in a girl's life, you might prefer Louise Wener's Different For Girls. Different for Girls: A girl's own true-life adventures in pop
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