“I am writing this because writing is what I do. It’s both a living and the way I live, the way I make sense of things, the way I try to learn my lessons. I am writing this so that if I died today, my daughters can learn from my mistakes, and so that whatever information they may stumble on about me (I imagine them as adolescents googling my name), there will be a verison in black and white that will not alter in the retelling. Fuck, I’m writing this so that I can learn from my mistakes.”
A little caveat: I am a huge Lily Allen fan. I am. I’ve seen her live four times, four perfect times the lot of them. Each time I proudly bought a concert tee-shirt, usually candy pop-coloured, which I shrugged on over whatever Topshop-bought threads I was wearing that day so that my body could cash the cheques that my mouth was writing as I yelled at the top of my lungs to her savage, brilliant lyrics. I am a huge Lily Allen fan.
I’m in the pocket for this book, the singer’s memoir of her life thus far. I know this. I know that you probably are not, though, so I’m here to convince you that you need to read it. Because you do.
Lily Allen is a divisive figure. She knows this about herself, which is why she prefaces this in-depth autobiography with a slightly defensive introduction in which she addresses the biggest perceived criticisms of the book that she can anticipate. She addresses the fact that she’s young and shouldn’t be writing her life story. She acknowledges that she has made mistakes, misused alcohol and drugs, cheated on partners and gone off the rails. She admits that her relationship with her famous family (her father is actor Keith Allen, her mother is film producer Alison Owen, her brother is Game of Thrones star Alfie Allen) can be fraught. She also sets up, right from the start, that nothing will be off the table in this book. She will write about her mental health, she will write about her drug use, she will write about her family, she will write about the breakdown of her relationships. But she will also write about her stalker, the constant barrage of paparazzi and press, her sexual harassment at the hands of an industry insider who, for legal reasons, she cannot name, her stillbirth, her depression, the spiral of a tour when she, lonely and lonesome, paid for female sex workers to visit her hotel suite…
When she says in the introduction to the book that she wants to give her version of the events of her life, Lily means it. From childhood to the present day, Lily writes about it all in the same frank and cutting style that fans of her lyrics will know and love.
If you’re not a fan of her music, though, there’s plenty for you to get out of this book. As a meditation on fame and the perils of it, it’s searingly honest. But where it gets brilliant are the chapters in the second half of the book in which Lily discusses motherhood and the chasm between the idea of domesticity she had in her head and the reality of it. Famous, chart-topping Chanel muse or not, that’s something that most women have to reckon with.