At My Mother's Knee, By Paul O'Grady

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Arising out of the "ghost-written fleet" of mawkish celebrity memoirs, this one distinguishes itself as a genuinely affecting autobiography which exploits Paul O'Grady's (or to his fans, Lily Savage's) deftness at delivering a punchline.

His comedy vernacular is traced back to the sassy women of his Liverpool youth, including his no-nonsense mother, Aunty Chris and the neighbours who influenced him. He himself concedes: "The truth, I realise now, is that Lily owes a lot to the women I encountered in my childhood.

Characteristics were learned and absorbed". Unlike a typical rise-to-fame memoir, the book has a way of telling a very emotional story, of a man growing up and grappling with his sexuality in a hostile environment, through a non-linear trajectory of vivid vignettes of family life, and with a lightness of touch.