Archive for August, 2008

The Celeb Diaries – Mark Frith

August 27, 2008

The Celeb DiariesGreat excitement in our house at the end of last week as a review copy of Mark Frith’s Celeb Diaries plopped onto the doormat.

For those of you who don’t know who Mark Frith is, he edited Heat magazine pretty much from its launch until earlier this year, when he finally left.

As such, he presided over the magazine success story of the noughties and the rise of celebrity culture.

As we have both worked on celeb magazine in our house, we were interested to read Mark Frith’s revelations and both read the book in the space of 3 days.

So what’s it like? Well, actually a little disappointing. Very near the start of the book, Frith talks about how he was inspired to write the book after reading Piers Morgan’s The Insider. You can tell that he desperately wants The Celeb Diaries to be the magazine equivalent of Morgan’s romp through the decade.

The thing is, it’s like putting a Ferrari next to a Ford Focus. Piers Morgan is, by all accounts, a loud, brash, entertaining sort of cove and his book reflects his personality perfectly. It’s fast, snappy, compelling and a generally riveting read.

In comparison to Morgan’s Ferrari, Frith’s book is plodding and unremarkable. If The Insider reflects Morgan’s personality, then sadly so does The Celeb Diaries. It’s curiously unremarkable, not particularly revealing and basically just nice – probably quite like Mark Frith and an apt description of a Ford Focus.

OK, so perhaps I’m biassed because I know a little more than the average about the way magazines work, but I never really felt as if the book revealed that much.

Mark Frith is extremely fond of telling readers that he doesn’t drink or do anything particularly rock and roll, which is all very admirable but boy does it make for a boring read.

Yes, he gives us a little bit of insider knowledge about the likes of Geri Halliwell and Jade Goody, but it all feels a little low-rent. There’s nothing amazingly revelatory, despite the promise of sensation on the cover.

Morgan, on the other hand, is happy to regale us when he gets steaming drunk and makes himself look like a complete and utter arse and it makes for joyful reading.

Mark Frith is a remarkably successful editor and made Heat a tremendous success, but on the evidence of The Celeb Diaries, I’m not convinced he’ll be able to convert that into being a successful author.

The Outcast – Sadie Jones

August 6, 2008
The Outcast - Sadie Jones

The Outcast - Sadie Jones

This is one of this summer’s hottest books – advertised everywhere, in all the lists of best beach reads and glued to the fingers of every third person on public transport.

So what’s it actually like? The Outcast is set in the 1950s, Lewis is a 19-year-old boy released from prison and returning to the scene of his crime, his childhood home and village of Waterford in Surrey.

Nine years previously, Lewis had gone out for the day with his mother, who he was devoted to, but came back without her. The events of the day will change his life forever.

The book is written beautifully and evokes the period eloquently and almost perfectly. You feel quickly immersed into the time and get a sense for the customs and qualities.

English rural life is still very much affected by the war and female emancipation isn’t exactly rife. Life for Lewis’ family and friends is still all about cocktail parties and Sunday mornings at church. Everyone knows everyone else’s business, or else you think they do.

I enjoyed this book up to a point. Something in me, though, found it all a bit uncomfortable. Perhaps it was the stereotypical portrayal of men and women, which undeniably befits the era.

Maybe it was because I felt that there was something missing to the story. It all felt a bit too neat and I thought there could have been a few more loose ends and grey areas.

That’s not a great critique, I know, but perhaps you have to read it yourself to understand. Whatever, it’s immensely accomplished for a first novel – just not quite as amazing as some people and reviews would have you believe.