Jo Brand Look Back In Hunger - A Review
If you're a fan of Jo Brand her autobiography won't disappoint. I received the book as a Christmas present and couldn't put it down. I would have devoured the whole thing in one sitting, almost as quickly as I devoured the box of Lindor, drum of Celebrations and box of Belgian Seashells (I feel Jo would understand), but my family felt I should join in with the rest of the festivities and not spend all day reading. My reading, therefore, had to be rationed.
The book details her life up to the point where her stand-up career is beginning to take off.
It begins during a particularly bad bout of heckling whilst she is on stage at Loughborough Uni, and takes it from there.
Naturally enough, the early chapters cover her birth in Sarf London and young life with her parents and brothers. I guess for alot of women of a certain age, there will be resonances with Jo's early childhood due to the common themes we experienced as a society in the sixties.
The family moved around a lot, but Jo appears to have made friends with confidence and aplomb wherever she landed up. She talks about the scrapes she and her brothers get into - you wouldn't have wanted her to baby-sit for you that's for sure.
Like many young ladies in the sixties, she passed her eleven plus and went on to Grammar School, this time in Tunbridge Wells, where she had a great time and did well. Things however began to fall apart when the family moved again and she had to change schools.
With the advent of the 'unsuitable boyfriend' and the promising delights of Hastings, her teenage years became troubled and the relationship with her parents strained. But Jo talks about these times with honesty and humour that had me crying with laughter, partly because I recognised the stroppy teenager I once was.
I'm sure these chapters will resonate with many teens of the sixties and seventies!
Throughout all of the turbulence, Jo manages to recount her antics and fights with her parents without rancour or recourse to blame, which prevents her memoir from descending into a wallow of self-pity.
Her teens are a riot of self discovery, pubs, bars, clubs and short-lived jobs, often in the realm of helping those less fortunate. All the while the 'unsuitable boyfriend' is ever present.
Eventually Jo's life implodes one too many times, Mum comes to the rescue and Jo sees the value of beginning something called 'a career'.
She describes university life, and some of the funny and frankly frightening antics she and her friends got up to, before emerging as a fully fledged Registered Mental Nurse.
Although Jo knew for many years (before embarking on Uni) that she wanted to do stand-up comedy, she actually took some time to get there. I suppose you can't do a course in stand-up and I guess it's not high on the curriculum of careers advisers.
Jo spent around ten years as a psychiatric nurse, and her memoir details some of the more unusual happenings during that time.
Eventually, she bites the bullet and makes a stab at comedy, but not before doing a few auditions for the stage. She describes one episode where she has to improvise, and the tears just rolled down my cheeks.
The book ends just as things are beginning to take off, so write another one PLEASE Jo!
As I said before, I couldn't put this book down and it made me laugh out loud several times. I'm sure there's nothing more annoying than being in the room with someone who giggles out loud at the book they have their nose in, but the family bore up well and didn't get too tetchy with me.
Reading Look Back In Hunger has made me want to read Jo's other books; to my knowledge, she has written three others.
I think it's a testament to the quality of a book if it leaves you wanting more, which this one definitely did.