Over the past few years biographies have been spoiled by the sensationalised, heightened realities of superstar celebrities and politicians, all the scandals being laid bear on the pages of tabloids and news websites.
This has result in the whole genre feeling a little bit cheapened, but we’ve started to see a revolution against these cynical money-grabs (I mean, all books are a money grab of some kind, else they’d be given away for free, but some of them were blatant, written with no love).
First there was Robert Webb and Sara Pascoe who used their own stories to create extended essays on gender identity (I still think a lot about both of those books) and then we had Adam Kay’s memoir-with-a-message This Is Going To Hurt – a look at what it means to be a modern day junior doctor.
All three of these books were powerful insights, not just into their subjects, but also into the overriding issue. What I’ve missed – the bit about biographies I’ve always liked – is the ability to identify with a person’s life and understand a bit more about who and what they are.
The three books mentioned above (which are just three of many examples I could have used) are brilliant books, but they’re all carefully edited and constructed to support their overall message. I’m not saying it didn’t all happen, I’m saying I don’t feel like I necessarily saw all that happened.
Not so with Sara Cox’s Till the Cows Come Home.
I love Sara Cox. I listen to her radio show and I’m slightly in love with her irreverent humour. You know when a straight man is slightly obsessed with another man, it’s called a man-crush… what’s the opposite of that for a gay man being slightly obsessed with a straight woman? Possibly just a crush.
Anyway, I’m slightly pre-disposed to love her book – but I went into it with the aim of being objective – and objectively speaking, this is a lovely heart-warming memoir. No trashy scandals, no message, just the story of the first twenty (or so) years of Cox’s life
From her early days growing up on a farm, to the accidental loss of the ‘h’ from the end of her name this covers all the parts of life that we all experience that we can all identify with, all told with Cox’s trademark warmth.
To be completely frank, it feels a little more restrained than the DJ is when she’s live on the radio and as such, loses the sound of her voice a little. This is probably to be expected, but I wonder if she was writing about something other than her family, her own history, whether her voice, her humour would shine through more.
Perhaps a fiction book might be coming in the future? For now, though, back to this book and it was a really nice exploration of Cox’s formative years. It doesn’t go into any huge detail about her party years as a nineties IT Girl – partly because Cox says she doesn’t really remember a lot of it – so anyone interested in that side of things might be disappointed.
But anyone who’s a fan of Sara Cox won’t be and this makes a lovely read. If you’re not a fan there’s still just enough here to keep you interested. I particularly enjoyed the stories of times she spent with her father, it’s clear she has a lot of love for him – as well as the rest of her family
Till the Cows Come Home is available now from Coronet