An Education, By Lynn Barber

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The Independent Culture

When the journalist Lynn Barber was a 16-year-old in 1960, for some inexplicable reason she got into the car of a smooth-talking older man she'd never met before.

There's no doubt that a need for excitement was part of her decision, but instead of being whisked away to meet a grisly end, she was inducted into a world she had never known: weekends in Paris and Amsterdam, mixing with bohemian types, drinking cocktails. Her older boyfriend, Simon, even offered marriage, which her parents, who had been backing her attempts to get into Oxford, suddenly espoused as her true future.

The reason for Simon's ultimate let-down is still shocking, even now, and you can't help wondering if that sudden eye-opening experience made Barber more ruthless when it came to her career, if not her personal life, which seems to have been more of a shelter from the demands of journalism. She denies her nickname "Demon Barber" can have any link to her real personality, but she was brave, if reckless, on many occasions in her working life, not least when signing up to work for Penthouse (which sounds both a funny and alarming experience). A compelling read.

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