Sunday, 19 January 2014

Book Review No. 1 of 2014: Clare Balding's Memoirs

I started this book on New Year's Day (a Wednesday) and had it finished by the Friday evening. I think that says something. Well, it could say that the book is only a few pages in length, or it could say that I was reading the EXTRA EXTRA LARGE PRINT edition. Or perhaps it says how much I enjoyed the book. What do you think? Yes, that's right, I enjoyed the book. A lot.

The book follows Clare's life from birth up to the time she went to university. Each chapter is based around an animal that was special to her during these formative years, hence the title. Hers was clearly an unusual upbringing, in fact you get the feeling that she almost brought herself up as her parents were rather preoccupied with other things. Being a champion race horse trainer is more than a full-time job, it's a way of life and Clare's father was completely and utterly devoted to this way of life. Her mother was also heavily involved and the children (Clare also has a brother) seemed to come a very poor second to all of this. That's not to say that this memoir is written in any way as a 'poor me' kind of story, far from it; Clare seemed to relish the freedom that she had and spent a lot of time out riding her favourite horses or playing with the dogs.

Clare's father ranked the Queen as one of his race horse clients - it's not everyone who can write a memoir which mentions the time(s) the Queen came for breakfast, or the rather frosty encounter with Princess Anne following a race in which they both rode (Clare beat HRH and HRH was not amused.)

The book is written in a very honest and engaging way, it is light-hearted and amusing but also poignant. As an autobiography it stands out from the crowd by being written around the animals that featured in her life rather than in the 'in 1986 I did this, in 1987 I went here' style. This makes it slightly rambling, but in a good way.

Perhaps if you have no interest in horses and/or dogs whatsoever you might find this book a little tiresome at times as there is a LOT about horse riding and horse racing, since this formed so much of Clare's early years. I didn't know, until I read this book, that she had been a winning jockey in her teens; several chapters are spent discussing the races she took part in, the difficulties she faced in trying to maintain a low weight and trying to please/impress her father, and the highs and lows of life as a jockey. But, the anecdotes make for an interesting read - the chapter featuring Princess Anne being a case in point.

If you are looking for an easy and very enjoyable autobiography to read, then I would highly recommend this one. Go on, give it a try!


  1. This is definitely my kind of book, is there or will there be another book for the next ' chapter' of her life? I'm going to put this on my Amazon wish list.

    1. Ps I love the title of it too!

    2. I wondered the same as I bet she has some cracking stories to tell since her time with Auntie Beeb!


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