Monday, 11 August 2014

How to Build a Girl readalong - the conclusion


This readalong is hosted by Emily at As the Crowe Flies (and reads)

In the final part of How To Build a Girl comes the moment we've all been dreading: the point in which Johanna, as Dolly Wilde, attempts to let her father's demo tape loose on the world. It goes about as well as one might expect in the magazine whose staff take much more pleasure in tearing bands down than building them up. I hadn't come to like Dolly or her father all that much but still I felt a pain watching her brutal disillusionment.

In this part, entitled Rip it Up and Start Again, the Dolly Wilde image Johanna has worked so hard to construct, comes crashing down. She finally realises that her boyfriend Tony Rich is just using her, and she is worth more than that! Good for her.


But all her vicious reviews come back to bite her on the backside when she comes face to face with those artists she has insulted. Suddenly she realises the hurtful power of her words. "The indie-rock world is a small world, and I soon realise I have insulted around a third of it." At this point, we are reminded that Johanna is only seventeen and quite naive, and never expected her reviews to actually reach those she wrote about. Why should these big rock bands care what this kid from Wolverhampton thinks? (I suppose on a smaller scale it's like writing a book blog and discovering the authors of the books read my reviews. That's always a bit of a shock even though I post my thoughts on the internet for the world to see.)


We find out why the family's benefits have been cut, and ironically it's because Johanna left school to start work to try to improve the financial situation. It's a lot of pressure to ask a kid to be the main breadwinner for both parents and four brothers, and I'm still not sure how it can make sense to get more income from not working than from working. Still, at least Johanna is doing okay with her journalism, despite the Dolly Wilde fiasco, getting a chance to start over at a different magazine and do what she went into the business to do. There was a lovely conversation between Johanna and her mum, which reminds us that though the family is a big messed-up unit, they all love each other and that's what's important. And it turns out that John Kite is not a creep at all, but is the charming kindred spirit Johanna believed him to be. I'm glad of that. But the epilogue with Dadda shows that he hasn't changed one bit since the beginning, still thinks he's about to be a big rock star. I guess it's good to end on a note of hope, even if it's a false hope - I was glad to be spared the agony of seeing his dreams destroyed, but it's frustrating to see a character staying exactly the same from the start of a novel to the end. learning nothing.


Overall I've enjoyed reading this book, and in such good company too, but I confess round about part four I began to get a bit impatient when the plot started to tail off and turn into Moran's journalistic musings. Still, it was a highly enjoyable novel, laugh-out-loud funny but with thought-provoking social commentary. Moran doesn't beat us around the head with the messages in the book, but prompts us to think about what we take away from the reading. 

Thanks again to Emily for organising this readalong. It's been good fun.

Key Quotes:


"I just thought, like, their press officers put it in a box and it just kind of stayed there, and they just carried on doing what they're doing, and we carry on doing what we're doing, and we all know it's just some fun, I was just riffing, I mean, why do they care what I think?"
"I'm not... your bit of rough. You're... my bit of posh."

10 comments:

  1. I wasn't overly impatient with Moran's journalistic musings (probably because I've read nothing else by her) but Chapter 24 was just that - you could pretty much publish that chapter as an essay and get the essence of the book.

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    1. I read this thinking too much like a writer, I think, and when it didn't fit into a novel-shape it made me critical. I studied literature and creative writing at uni, which usually enhances my enjoyment of a book but sometimes lessens it.

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  2. "She finally realises that her boyfriend Tony Rich is just using her, and she is worth more than that! Good for her."

    That whole section was just a mess and kind of confused me... they were not boyfriend and girlfriend, she was using him for casual sex (as long as several other guys), but then got mad at him for the same thing... what the what now??

    I am really, really glad that John Kite didn't turn out to be a creep.

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    1. Yeah, I used the term "boyfriend" loosely, and I definitely didn't think she was going about things the right way - I felt like she wasn't respecting herself - not in a "nice girls don't" sort of way so much as she wanted to be "useful" which bothered me. So I was pleased that she realised that she could do better, even though, you're quite right, she was using him just as much as he was using her.

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  3. The scene where they play her father's demo was moving--but I didn't believe for a second that her father wouldn't have hounded her about it. I would have expected him to force her into admitting it wasn't a success.

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    1. I was surprised that it didn't get back to him - didn't want to see him disappointed, but felt like it was a bit of a cop-out to leave that out.

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  4. I'm glad we're all so relieved that things with Kite turned out the way they did. It was nice to see Johanna have this kindred spirit deal with him and someone she can be herself (and not Dolly) with.

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    1. Three cheers for John Kite and his general non-assholery!

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  5. Awww, Hufflepuff gifs!

    "I suppose on a smaller scale it's like writing a book blog and discovering the authors of the books read my reviews. That's always a bit of a shock even though I post my thoughts on the internet for the world to see." YES. Funny how we do seem surprised when the authors read our reviews. I've occasionally felt bad and even gone back to modify some reviews after being reminder that the author was a real person.

    YAY for John Kite being the person we wanted him to be (and Johanna *needed* him to be)!

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