- First published in 2019 by Virago
- Format: Audiobook
- Narrator: Sandi Toksvig
- Listening Speed: 1x
- Listening Time: 4 interesting days
- Elected this one at the last minute when I found a gap in my audiobook schedule and decided to put this one in as my ‘celebrity memoir’ book for the Pretty Mess Reading Challenge. Sandi Toksvig is a writer, broadcaster, activist, and comic for nearly forty years known for hosting radio shows like the News Quiz and TV shows like QI and The Great British Bake Off. Sandi tells the story of her life and the lives of many famous but unknown women who made their mark on London and the world. All while tying it to the landmarks of her usual bus journey.
- Not in chronological order like other memoirs but it jumps around her timeline, occasionally getting side-tracked by a historical point. It really does sound like she’s having a conversation with you on the bus, voicing things that pop in her head in response to the events going on around her rather than giving you a lecture. These events include historical landmarks but also just random people who shared her bus routes. I can’t say I fully agree with her ideas of trying to connect with strangers on public transport (I’m far too socially awkward and paranoid to even think about starting a conversation) and, sometimes, she knowingly comes off as old fashioned. Still, she makes some valid points about how disconnected people have become from each other and she adds many anecdotes about the positive experiences she’s shared with strangers (including the one also included in ‘Peas and Queues’ about learning a new way to take coffee from women in Sudan) to show that good connections are possible. Even when faced with unreasonable hostility, Sandi approaches it with empathy and never lets it stop her from reaching out. I deeply respect that.
- Jokey anecdotes and serious moments are woven together very well. Sandi reflects on her own mortality, on the friends and family she has lost over the years and on her own mental health struggles (most of which was the struggle to find a professional to take her seriously). She also describes all the many instances of homophobia she encountered and, in particular, a moment when she feared for herself and her family after the tabloids targeted her. It’s not just her own experiences she mentioned either. She highlights tragic stories from other LGBT friends too. All of which are heartbreaking and are made even more so by Sandi’s concerns that they couldn’t happen again.
- Outstanding style and narration, of course. I could listen to Sandi Toksvig talk all day.
- You’ll find so many interesting new historical figures you likely never heard of because they were women and/or people of colour. Promoting womens’ achievements and pointing out all the times women were treated unfairly or had their works diminished runs through the book. I think I would like Florence Nightingale to be known as the Lady With The Hammer too. I’ll definitely be looking some of the names up for more information.
- A bit of a surprise to find her to be rather more introverted and less aware of pop culture than expected. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a lot of funny stories, such as antics on the set of the Great British Bake Off, her first job in the theatre, the pranks she played while working as a telephonist and the little rebellions she committed as a child against unfair and vindictive adults.
- Biggest and most obvious recurring point was how important her late father was to her. He’s described as a real character who always had Sandi’s back and who gave her very valuable life lessons. I wouldn’t mind a book all about him.
- Leaves the reader with a lot to think about as Sandi draws attention to modern problems as well as the issues she faced in the past. In one particularly shocking moment, Sandi describes the moment she was caught in the middle of a violent random crime committed on her bus and connects it in no uncertain terms with the divisive rhetoric coming out of modern politics. In light of more recent events in the UK, it’s hard to disagree.
- Ends on an uplifting note but also with an urge to keep fighting one’s battles. I rather enjoyed riding the bus with Sandi and listening to her anecdotes and wisdom. It was rather like chatting with a favourite family member or good friend and I’m glad I went with this celebrity memoir.
Goodreads Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
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