Highlights in the Charts
And Away by Bob Mortimer
Review by Becky Innes
The only thing I knew about Bob Mortimer before reading his autobiography were the bizarre and wacky tales he tells on the BBC show Would I Lie to You. From doing his own dentistry to setting his mum’s house on fire with fireworks, Bob’s stories always leave you scratching your head, questioning whether they are really true. When I saw his autobiography in the bestsellers list week after week, I decided to give it a go. I was almost put off when he tells you from the beginning that some of the stories aren’t true as in Would I Lie to You. I might be old school, but I like my autobiographies to tell the truth!
The book is almost a tale of two personalities. Some chapters relate to Robert Mortimer – the young quiet boy that lost his father at a young age. Other chapters relate to Bob Mortimer – his TV persona who is famous for his comedy and is part of the duo Mortimer and Reeves. For me, he doesn’t become Bob and leave Robert behind; he evolves into a person that is both Bob and Robert.
The book focuses heavily on Bob's experience with heart surgery, which I believe was the catalyst that influenced him to tell his story and immortalise himself in the literary world. The book flicks back and forth between the past and the present and I really enjoyed this non-linear aspect.
Sometimes Bob does come across as always trying to be the funniest man in the room and this makes the book lose some of its depth. Most readers would much prefer reading about how difficult it is to lose a family member and I would’ve loved more stories about his wife and children, rather than old jokes and titbits from his teenage years in the playground and on the streets. Like any autobiography, I think the more you like the celebrity, the more you will enjoy their life story.
Whilst I’m not a huge fan of Mortimer’s brand of comedy, I did enjoy reading about Bob’s life and how he went from a homeless lawyer to a showbiz legend. I would never watch a show about fishing (he presents Gone Fishing on the BBC), and I wouldn’t have picked this book up if it wasn’t in the charts, but Bob was really able to capture the most poignant aspects of his life with sparkle and warmth.
Blurb Your Enthusiasm: An A-Z of Literary Persuasion by Louise Willder
Review by Natalie Beckett
Let me let you in on a little secret: much like children have zero attention span for prologues, I have zero attention span for book blurbs. Blurbs are the copy on the back cover of a book or in some cases the bit of writing on the inside of the book jacket. You know, that bit that tells you what it’s all about and sometimes manages to convince you to buy the book. I get most of my book recommendations from trusted colleagues, friends and podcasts so I rarely read the cover copy. I have no need; when I go into a bookshop I’ve already decided I’m going to buy the book.
I’m telling you this because I’m about to recommend that you read a book that is all about blurbs and I want you to understand the irony of being recommended a book about book blurbs (which is already a bit niche) by someone that doesn’t even bother reading them.
So why am I embarking on such a contradictory crusade? Well, because Blurb Your Enthusiasm, An A-Z of Literary Persuasion by Louise Willder, happens to be a really good book. So good in fact, that the statement I made in the first paragraph of this review is no longer true. Willder has convinced me that blurbs are far from being boring – they’re actually fun.
In her debut book, Willder delves into the art of blurb writing, and it’s not necessarily what you would expect. Not least because she manages to quote Bridget Jones, Oscar Wilde and The Haunting of Hill House all within the first three pages. I learned crazy things about human skin and a fun fact about spines that I’ll be telling all my friends. There are also insider titbits about the publishing industry, such as what it’s like to write a blurb for Margaret Atwood and the reality of writing cover copy for books that don’t have a real plot (*cough cough* literary fiction).
For anyone who writes or works in publishing, the book also offers useful advice based on Willder’s twenty-five years of experience as a copywriter at Penguin. Some of my favourite tips include: how to be a marketing pioneer like Dickens, whether it’s ok to swear, how to make language “fizz,” when to use attention-seeking punctuation and what women don’t want in copy.
As for the author herself, Willder’s writing is intelligent, funny and to the point - essentially all the things you would look for in a great copywriter and now, published author.