Book Twenty-Seven: How To Build a Girl

how to build a girl

 Caitlin Moran – I would put her in the category of someone you either love or hate. I love her and think her writing is brilliant. She’s clever, hilarious and fearless – you can guarantee that she will have the guts to say what everyone else is thinking and say it in a way that most probably involves a swear word or two. I guess though, if you are going to write about topics like feminism, or indeed just being a woman in the 21st century, you need to be bold and brash. And for that I will always be a fan.

How to Build a Girl, is the fictionalised follow up to her absolutely hilarious book How to Be a Woman, which explored what it is like to be a woman in this day and age. It’s basically The Female Eunuch for a modern woman and had me pretty much wetting myself with laughter throughout. So glad that a woman can write about things like childbirth and periods in such a matter of fact, down to earth way.

Anyway, back to HTBAG! As I mentioned, this book is a novel, so I was very intrigued to see how Moran’s fiction writing stands up. I love her columns and as mentioned I loved HTBAW, but I did wonder if her writing would translate to fiction. Well, for a start, although it is fiction, it’s quite clear that there are many parallels between the book’s protagonist and Moran’s own life. But knowing what I know about her – that she left home at about 15 to become a journalist, I knew whatever story lay ahead of me wouldn’t be boring!

How To Build a Girl, tells the story of Johanna Morrigan – an overweight, friendless teenager living in a Wolverhampton council estate in the 90’s. After humiliating herself on TV, Johanna decides to totally reinvent herself as Dolly Wilde – a hedonistic, chain smoking, rockstar shagging femme fatale. She leaves school at 15 to become a music journalist and embarks on many adventures (mainly sexual or booze fuelled) – before eventually realising that she doesn’t actually like the girl she’s built.

While the moral of the story is perhaps a little predictable, the writing is as you would expect, razor sharp and extremely funny. Moran creates a cast of hilarious, yet real characters that you can’t help but love – Johanna’s family for example are completely loony yet loving and clearly struggling to provide for the family they love. Class plays a big part in the book, with the Morrigan family really struggling to make ends meet. At one stage they have their benefits cut which has drastic implications for the family – yet none of this comes across like a sob story, it’s just reality. This is a brilliant book guaranteed to make you laugh…and it might make you think a little too… before you laugh again. Well worth a read.

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