I realised I haven’t posted reviews of any of the audiobooks I’ve read in 2023, so here’s some quick mini-reviews. I can confirm that I’ve become audio obsessed since I “discovered” them at the end of last year. In particular I love listening to memoirs, people telling their own stories, where there is a clear theme or message for the book (so it’s not just a celebrity cash-grab or collection of rambling anecdotes). I’m gobbling them up so quickly, so comment with the memoirs I should try next?

Strong Female Character by Fern Brady

THE PLOT: ‘Strong Female Character’ by Fern Brady is a memoir about the comedian’s diagnosis with autism spectrum disorder. Starting as a young child in Scotland, Brady humorously recounts times where she’s felt odd or different to others, with the stories building into a crescendo until she becomes a famous comedian in London and is, after much trying, eventually diagnosed with ASD. From being a teenager on a psych ward to being a stripper while studying at Edinburgh Uni, she seamlessly ties together her life experiences with a core message about women’s neurodevelopmental conditions and mental health.

RATING:  This book absolutely blew me away. Equal parts funny and emotional, this memoir is raw and honest and clever and I cannot recommend it strongly enough. I haven’t related to a book this much in a long time and I think Fern’s story of feeling out of place and unwanted and unsure of yourself will resonate with a lot of people. Not only has Fern had an extremely interesting life, with lots of anecdotes that you simply need to read to believe (I laughed out loud continually), she is very well-informed about the under- and mis-diagnosis of autism in women, and I feel like I’ve learned so much about ASD. Her narration and comic timing are impeccable so I would highly recommend this on audio, if possible. My only criticism is that I wished we had more information on her becoming established as a comedian as she rushed through a couple of years and suddenly had an agent and was well known on the circuit.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

THE PLOT: ‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama is a memoir by the former First Lady of the United States. It covers her upbringing on the south side of Chicago, how she beat the odds and got accepted to Harvard University, and, as a graduate lawyer, how she met and fell in love with an activist called Barak Obama. A whopping 19 hours, it is a full life story about becoming the first African American to serve in the First Lady role and shares the high highs and lows of life in the white House with honesty and wit.

RATING: Honestly, I think the Obama’s could fart in front of me and I’d sniff it up like roses. But that being said, I’d highly recommend this down-to-earth, intelligent book. My favourite parts were her childhood and upbringing in Chicago and I’m in awe of how her family sounds so nurturing and supportive. I also liked learning about her time as a lawyer and her early relationship with Barack, as well as her honesty about miscarriage and struggling in their marriage as his career took off. I removed half a star because it was way too long and I think the book could have been published in two volumes, with less detail about Barack’s political machinations. I also kept expecting her to address how she’s reconciled being forever defined by her relationship to her husband, despite being a fiercely clever and ambitious woman in her own right, but this was never covered.

The Opposite of Butterfly Hunting by Evanna Lynch

THE PLOT: ‘The Opposite of Butterfly Hunting’ is a memoir about recovery from anorexia by Evanna Lynch. Best known for her role of Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter films, the actress suffered from a severe eating disorder as a pre-teen. The book covers her whole life, with a focus on her mental health struggles, alongside revealing how she was cast in one of the biggest ever film franchises just two years after being released from hospital.

RATING: This was a well-written book, which realistically and responsibly raises awareness of the difficulties of anorexia recovery. Filled with strong emotion that often had me in tears, I loved Evanna’s narration and her English accents for the patients and nurses at The Farm brought much-needed humour. What really shone through was her parents’ love and devotion, and their support to beat her disorder and to follow her acting dream is admirable. I wish there had been a little more about each of the Harry Potter films as she only goes into casting and Order of the Phoenix in detail. It also dragged at the end; the bit about acrobatics and butterflies was unnecessary.

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