February 4, 2013 § 2 Comments
HOW TO CREATE THE PERFECT WIFE by Wendy Moore (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 322pp; £18.99)
The subtitle is delicately understated: “Georgian Britain’s most ineligible bachelor and his quest for the perfect woman.” The bachelor was Thomas Day who, in 1769, adopted two twelve-year old girls, Sabrina and Lucretia, from the Orphan Hospital in Shrewsbury with the intention of preparing them for life as ideal wives. Day, though a rich man, was dedicated to the nature-inspired philosophy of Rousseau, and practiced a regime of charitable works and personal austerity. He was a stranger to fashion and, indeed, charm. Wendy Moore has a fine time with Day and his ethical contradictions. The girls, abused in various ways, were a disappointment to Day who more or less abandoned them. He continued his quest for the ideal woman, finally settling on a poetic heiress, Esther Milnes, who became pleasingly submissive. With gusto and glee, Moore takes on the paradoxes of the ‘Age of Reason’ and the tyranny of public probity and private morality.
BEDSIT DISCO QUEEN: How I Grew Up and Tried To Be a Pop Star by Tracey Thorn (Virago, 372pp; £16.99)
From 1982 to 2000, Tracey Thorn was half of ‘Everything But The Girl’, a highly-rated and best-selling indie music duo. Married to the other half, Ben Watt, raising three kids and now semi-detached from the music business, she looks back on it all with an acerbic affection: “I’ve been in the charts, out of them, then back in again … described as an indie darling, a middle-of-the-road nobody and a disco diva.” It’s her story of a career in Brit pop lived – as she says – in the margins. But central to her memoir is the Girl, grown into a witty, intelligent, self-aware woman who performs with as much pizzazz on the page as on the stage. She writes as perceptively about the politics and culture of the music business as about her own contribution to it. Her style, like her story, is brisk and bright, direct and engaging. Fab.