In brief: The further adventures of Johanna Morrigan (aka Dolly Wilde) as a 19 year old music journalist in London. It’s all about the music, friends and finding your way in a world that can be rather cruel.
The good: The number of Oasis references in the first 30 pages and Jo/Dolly’s wild, carefree attitude.
The not-so-good: Some parts of the book felt a bit separate to the rest, like the Jerry Sharp debacle.
Why I chose it:
How to Build a Girl was awesome so I’ve been waiting impatiently to read this.
Publisher: Ebury Press (Penguin)
Setting: Mainly London, England
Rating: 8 out of 10
Ever since I heard that there was going to be a sequel to How to Build a Girl, a funny, raw and honest story of a young girl trying to make it out of her town and into the music industry, I have been desperate to read it. Johanna Morrigan was a funny character with wisdom beyond her years in a top hat. Now Jo is back as a nineteen year old, living the life in London in the early 1990s as a music journalist. There are glimpses of Blur off duty and an Oasis concert to start off Jo’s glamourous life as Dolly Wilde. But then things become not so wonderful…
Some of Jo’s problems are family based and some others are more serious. Her father has rediscovered his youth which is hanging around in Jo’s flat, smoking dope and going to pubs and clubs for music. It’s a bit hard to be independent when your father is having the munchies on your couch. There’s also the problem of John Kite, who Jo is seriously in love with. But now he’s become the Robbie Williams of the 1990s and girls want him across the planet. What else can he do but drink, do drugs and lament that everyone thinks he’s sold out. (And still not notice Jo). Jo’s also a bit sick of the boys’ club at her job on DM&E
where she’s the butt of many sexist jokes. Then there is Jerry Sharp. Hot comedian who is a bit weird in the sex department and way ahead of his time when it comes to intimate films. Now Jo is in one of them and as she and new friend/hot singer/sex cousin Suzanne decide to take Jerry down, Jerry decides to bring Jo down. It’s a hot tumult of drinking, friends, sex and music.
How to Be Famous was overall a fun read. There were heaps of Oasis references early on, some Blur ones and some that I’m sure went straight over my head. The story is just like Jo – non-stop. There was always something happening. However, sometimes it seemed a bit disjointed. The Jerry Sharp incident and subsequent revenge fits in with the #MeToo movement and demonstrates that females don’t have to sit and take sexist rubbish. It’s well written but sometimes it didn’t seem to quite ‘fit’. The tone ranged from fun and frivolous to very, very serious very quickly. Sometimes this subplot was glossed over quickly to go back to the raucous Suzanne or awkward friend-sex. It was a little weird. All the parts of the plot are valid, but sometimes they just didn’t fit in the right way for me.
The characters are wonderfully quirky again from Lady Sex Adventurer to members of rising Girl Power indie rock band, The Branks. Julia is delightfully grumpy and so grounded she’s in the Tube. Suzanne is pure craziness with 10000% confidence and the ability to say what everyone else is thinking – bluntly. There is a lot of humour in this novel. Perhaps the least funny character is John Kite but that’s probably because Jo idolises him and we see him through her own eyes. He’s sweet and the letter Jo writes to him to bring him out of his ‘I’m a sell-out mood’ is just wonderful.
The only real let down for me was a lack of proofreading in parts and some typos (words missing, near miss words). Overall, I’d love to see what happens to Jo and her career and life. I wouldn’t say no to another book!