Interspersed within my month of January’s and a particle of February’s chosen book list will be some Christmas haulage. This is not a bad thing because it gives me an opportunity to read that which I would naturally bypass. And being out of my comfort zone be it travel, company or indeed reading matter is an ambition of mine for the year 2013.
Clare Balding’s, My Animals and Other Family, falls neatly into this resolutional category. In fact, I remember clearly telling Mr Carmichael not to get it. But, as discussed in Dear Santa, the Christmas Eve buying bonanza went into husbandly overdrive and resulted in quite a few books for yours truly.
In the UK there will be few who do not know Clare Balding. She has been on our television screens for many years now, first as a jockey and then a racing correspondent. Her TV presence has grown latterly and Balding’s 2012 could be likened, in the world of business, to a friendly takeover. Omnipotent. That’s the word.
She was the face of the BBC’s Olympic and Channel 5’s Paralympic coverage and never off our screens for a while this summer. For the very most part she did a jolly good job and even when I became engaged in a tweet-fest over her, I guess he’ll have to settle for bronze, comment, the apology made it all ok again.
A good year then to publish an autobiography. I’m sure it must be one of this country’s best sellers. It’s been marketed hard (Mr C was sold), we all love a horse or a doggy story and Clare comes across as a jolly nice kinda gal.
Now, Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals is in my all time top ten reads and I think, just as I cannot bare to read Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr Ripley because it is my favourite movie of all time and I don’t want the novel to be anything but brilliant, I was slightly put off the offering by the ‘clever’ inversion of my conservationist hero’s title. Make up your own, Clare, I thought when first spotting the publication.
Here I must mention that the author does not only credit the original title inventor but asked his wife for permission to flip.
The premise of the book is that the author’s life is relayed by reference to a specific animal (horse or dog) in each chapter and because they, the horses and dogs, have been such a pivotal presence in Balding family life (her father Ian, the champion horse trainer) it is a valid platform on which to tell her story. Clare herself calls it the ‘key’ that enabled her to write this, her first book.
I learnt a lot about Clare and the family she grew up in. A family where she and her brother ‘came very low down the pecking order’ but seem to have got as much out of parenting at a distance as they, perhaps, missed out on. The tales made me smile and I too fell for Frank, one of Clare’s life’s loves.
Anatole France is quoted at the outset. ‘ Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened’ and I think he is right. My soul was vigorously awakened by Bertie, my devil with a smile, Golden Retriever – Making ‘Naughty Dog’ a Life’s Work.
And I did enjoy the book. It’s a summer read, a light and quick soufflé but there is nothing wrong with that is there? Were I cast away on a desert island I might err on the side of heftier tomes.
I am now reading The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach which I gave to Mr Carmichael for Christmas because I was pretty sure he wouldn’t give it to me.