I have to admit that when ‘A Diary of The Lady’ by Rachel Johnson popped through my letter box a couple of months ago I was in a secret part of me thrilled, I had watched the Channel 4 show and found it quite fascinating, and in part a little surprised. Did Penguin, and therefore quite a lot of readers of the blog, think I was the sort of person who reads ‘The Lady’ (a weekly magazine for women over 45 filled with all sorts)? I then decided it must be because I myself am a journalist, and it’s what I keep telling myself, however really I think its because at heart I am a bit of an old granny in some ways, not all but some and really I shouldn’t deny it or be ashamed.
After taking quite a while debating ‘do I/don’t I read it’ I decided I would give Rachel Johnsons diary of her time taking over as Editor of the lady a whirl… and within about half an hour and thirty pages I was so annoyed by it I had to put the book away somewhere for its own safety. I was getting so cross with Rachel Johnson, who I had quite liked on the telly, discussing how hard it was to keep her mansions (ok maybe not mansions) in London and how she had to get/accept a job on this awful magazine as she was out of work, yet all in a slightly smug condescending way, I was beginning to seethe.
However when I was packing for the recent move I didn’t want to give it away which I thought was interesting and so decided, as its written in diary form – as you would guess from the title – that it might be just the bite sized read to get me through some readers block no matter how angry it might make me. After all we all like reading something that’s a bit of a guilty pleasure and really in many ways that is just what ‘A Diary of The Lady’ is to be honest, which is no bad thing and sometimes just what you need in your reading life.
Initially I found the smugness rather annoying, then I loved the gossipy side of it with Debo Devonshire and the like, I also found the thought processes behind changing a magazine, and actually trying to save it, whilst being followed around by a camera crew and juggling everything else quite interesting, especially her relationship with The Budworths who are the family that set up and fund the magazine. On occasion I did wonder if Rachel Johnson had watched the TV documentary (mentioned above) back a few times and wherever she had come across in a certain way she would justify the reasons for this a little more – fair enough we know TV can edit things.
In fact it was Rachel Johnson who makes and on occasion breaks this book, which initially sounds silly as she is the author so of course she should, as when something is non-fiction yet has a narrative you feel like you want to understand the narrator. Yet I felt Rachel Johnson was all over the shop at times, which she probably was it’s a big challenge and an emotional time. I think the paragraph below will give you a fair insight into what the book can be like…
“After half an hour of the delightful crew being in my kitchen I was already exhausted by the strain of being interesting and lively and trying not to show my broken nose on my bad (i.e., right) side. They asked me to leaf through a recent issue of the magazine. I do so and find a whole article about cucumbers. I also point to the cover – which has a pretty photograph in pinks of blowsy blooms – and sneer. I say to the camera that the cover makes me think that ‘someone has died’. The crew snorts with laughter. They clearly want me to knock my own product. The part of me that wants to please them is only too happy to oblige them, but this is breaking the first rule of PR (never piss in your own pool). So even though it’s the Budworths who have gunned for this documentary to be made, more than me, I cannot see what I am getting out of this project apart from adding to my already well-established reputation as a publicity-prone irritant.”
One minute I was fuming with Rachel Johnson, then she would make me laugh out loud, next I didn’t know if she loved ‘The Lady’ or loathed it – or if she knew what she thought about any of it, then I would empathise and then I would get wound up before bursting out laughing again. Basically I went through the whole lot. This was fine though because I read it as a treat now and again to devour in short bursts – a bit like you do a huge box of chocolates, you enjoy your favourites but avoid the coffee flavours or orange crèmes. But how can you rate a book like that, and the answer is you can’t, people will either love this book or loathe it if they read it full on, however if it’s a book you can dip in and out of it makes a nice guilty pleasure read.
This book was sent by the publishers.