Readalong hosted by the awesome Emily at As the Crowe Flies (and Reads!)
'I am branding me'
I read chapters 5-10 in one sitting (definitely whilst star-fished on my bed trying not to die in the heat - I know that's an image you guys want to imagine). It was good. In fact, it was pretty darn good. But also, it was a let down. Actually it's hard to say it was a let down because in truth it wasn't, but it does pale in comparison to the first part. It's like reading the PHEW after something really intense, only it's quite a long PHEW. I guess in a way it balances out the extremes of the first part, and gives us a glimpse of a more subdued Johanna as she gets into the nitty gritty and begins to create herself.
We begin part two, not with a death as threatened at the end of part one, but with a rebirth. It turns out that Johanna does not want to die, she just doesn't want to be herself:
'I just...want to not be me anymore. Everything I am now is not working.'
Johanna reels through a list of potential names in the hope of finding the perfect persona to 'fly it all the way down to London, to my future'. I'm personally a fan of Eleanor Vulpine, though I'm almost certainly biased. So she settles on Dolly Wilde who happened to be the niece of Oscar Wilde and brought her own scandalous life to the Wilde family tree. After changing her name, Johanna becomes a writer for a music magazine and this is the journey we follow her own through this section.
Dolly Wilde is Johanna's 'early 1990s prototype Tamagotchi' (who else remembers these?! I could never keep them alive). She blu-tack's lists of attributes she would like Dolly to have to her wall (a 'this is who I am' mood board in effect) and literally re-creates herself physically - think black eyeliner, dyed black hair, a whole lotta black clothing and a top hat. The top hat is my favourite thing, particularly when she's desperately trying to keep it on her head during the gig.
'I can see where I've drawn Dolly Wilde on top of my own face - the two uneasily co-existing - but perhaps others can't.'
I'm going to take a wee little trip down memory lane at this point, feel free to scroll on by if the inner-angst of a nineties baby does not appeal. I've remade myself so many times I sometimes forget who I was before I started making adjustments. I've been the drama nerd, the goth girl (there may have been an emo stage in there at some point), the best-friends-with-all-guys girl, the bookworm, the quiet one, and the one who doesn't care what happens on stage as long as they're on stage. I was constantly reinventing myself to find the person I was meant to be or work out which persona was the most fun and the most popular. Then when I hit sixteen and went to sixth form college, I changed my name. I'd always been known as Ellie or Eleanor, but suddenly I decided that was boring, she was the old me and I was going to go to college and have ALL THE FRIENDS and ALL THE FUN (yeh, maybe not). So I introduced myself as Nell. But Nell actually became my worst enemy. She was shy, she couldn't cope with new people or new places and the big wide world of college was just that, too big and too wide. Perhaps I should have changed my name to Marian Halcombe and taken on the world, one mystery and one devious Count at a time. There's always next time...
Basically, I'm just saying that I still love Johanna and I still love Moran for writing the girl that many girls were/are/will be - desperate to be liked, loved, successful, special and, yes, just a little bit beautiful.
Anyway, moving onto my favourite bit of this section:
'Rock music needs very supportive bras'
Hell yes it does! It also needs a raincoat from all the beer and sweat flying around those tiny venues. I loved Johanna's first gig experience and her decision to be an 'onlooker of youth culture' instead of an 'animal'. It's awesome, funny, and just a little bit entirely true.
You can pre-order the book from The Odyssey Bookshop here (US), or buy it from Foyles here (UK).
By the by, if you've not seen this video please watch it now.