Books of the Year: Celebrity memoirs

A Chelsea girl (and more) offer intimate memories

Take one ripe celebrity, the more battered and bruised the better. Using a professional writer, lightly grill, making sure to squeeze out one or two juicy bits, putting the rest to one side for a sequel. Place on the three-for-two table, and serve just before Christmas.

This is the recipe favoured by most publishers, but quality memoirs are written in the seventh age – a last hurrah before death. Take Molly Parkin, the 80-year-old doyenne of 1960s Chelsea, a painter, poet, and Olympic shagger. In Welcome to Mollywood (Beautiful Books, £18.99) she has written a dizzying account of a 20th-century sex life. Her first lover takes her to the Cadogan Hotel, where he inserts a toothbrush into her bottom, and a strip light elsewhere. But he teaches her a love of sex and dozens of encounters follow, including with famous names, such as an oversized Bo Diddley. Her swansong, aged 73, is a quickie with a 23-year-old surfer in the disabled loo of a hotel. But it's not all larks: Parkin leaves you choking with her account of being abused by her father as a girl.

Carol Vorderman's father was a different kind of shit: he abandoned her when she was three weeks old, giving Carol a resentment that simmers nicely through It All Counts (Headline Review, £20). Life was hard, there was no money, until one day her mum secretly sent off a job application to Countdown. The next thing you know, Vorders is buying a racehorse. The pace is irregular, and Carol chooses her warts carefully: two failed marriages get only a line each. Still, the chapters on Richard Whiteley are moving. Reader, I cried.

For Dannii Minogue, it's not the dad but the sister: who'd want to live in the shadow of Kylie (both pictured above)? Poor Dannii: the Princess Margaret of pop. But then, Maggie Jones was probably more fun, and in My Story (Simon & Schuster, £18.99), Dannii comes across as fun and likeable, an ordinary girl who lucked out. She leaves the Kylie question as long as possible, then addresses it with dignity: "The truth... is that I never felt like I was competing with my sister. I'll say it again. I NEVER FELT LIKE I WAS COMPETING WITH MY SISTER." So that settles it.

Why not be more like Deborah Devonshire, who happily bills herself as "the youngest Mitford sister" on the cover of Wait For Me (John Murray, £20). Fans will know the story, but the duchess's prose is so lively her telling is pure pleasure. I thought all the Mitford books had been written. How wrong I was.

Chris Evans is already on his second volume (see recipe, above left), and we join him in his nausea-inducing millionaire years in Memoirs of a Fruitcake (HarperCollins, £20). He borrows £85m to buy Virgin Radio and nearly gets the Daily Star for a "snip" (£25m). One day, he charters a helicopter to go house-hunting and blows £6m by teatime. Today, he laughs at his old self, though the self-deprecation is only a figleaf to a giant ego. Showing off aside, the story gallops along, even if you are a little bit sick in your mouth.

Less exciting is Barry Humphries' "unauthorised" biography of Dame Edna, Handling Edna (Weidenfeld, £18.99), a long-winded account of their life "together". There are some good double entendres and earthy gags, and his satire of Australia is as savage as the best Les Patterson sketch. But the slow-burn humour puffs out and you're left wading through padding. I'd rather read a biography of the complex Humphries. Perhaps Dame Edna could write it.

Nicholas Parsons wrote his autobiography 16 years ago but, now in his eighties, has made a welcome return to the subject for My Life in Comedy, With Just a Touch of Hesitation, Repetition and Deviation (Mainstream, £17.99). He uses it to settle some scores: Clement Freud was "bullying", Wendy Richard was a nightmare, Tim Rice not very funny, and the BBC and various producers constantly misunderstood his beloved programme. Who knew a simple radio show could mask such melodrama?

Maureen Lipman is not afraid to write about the mundane in her collection of reminiscences and stories, I Must Collect Myself (Simon & Schuster, £18.99). It's a mixed bag, and loosely edited, and the 21 monologues stand out from some inconsequential pensées. Still, it's a lively variation on the usual memoir recipe.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Arts and Entertainment
James singer Tim Booth
latitude 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Lee says: 'I never, ever set out to offend, but it can be an accidental by-product'
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe judges were wowed by the actress' individual cooking style
Arts and Entertainment
Nicholas says that he still feels lucky to be able to do what he loves, but that there is much about being in a band he hates
musicThere is much about being in a band that he hates, but his debut album is suffused with regret
Arts and Entertainment
The singer, who herself is openly bisexual, praised the 19-year-old sportsman before launching into a tirade about the upcoming Winter Olympics

books
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
Jon Cryer and Ashton Kutcher in the eleventh season of Two and a Half Men

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

    Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

    A land of the outright bizarre
    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

    ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
    Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

    The worst kept secret in cinema

    A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
    Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    The new hatched, matched and dispatched

    Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
    Why do we have blood types?

    Are you my type?

    All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
    Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

    Honesty box hotels

    Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

    Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

    The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn