Opening sentence: “First, a few facts.”
I don’t read that many celebrity biographies and only reserved this at the library on a whim as the few parts from it that had been talked about in the press had piqued my interest. Even as I opened it and started reading I found myself thinking, ‘Do I really care enough about Lily Allen to read a whole book about her thoughts?’ It turns out, yes I do. Once I started reading, I just couldn’t stop. Not only has Lily lead a pretty fascinating and often heartbreaking life up until now, she also has a wonderfully easy-to-read writing style (her Jane Eyre reference was particularly good: ‘Reader, I scored and took a lot of drugs.’)
Written in a vaguely chronological way, rather than segmenting it up by years / time frames, she divides the chapters into key events in her life (‘the things in my life that changed events, upended things, upset the cart’), which meant there was a big reveal or drama happening very frequently throughout. Like I said, it’s quite the page turner.
I realised while reading that my own impression of Lily Allen does come from what I’ve read online or in magazines and although the basic facts may be true, Lily uses My Thoughts Exactly to show how easily scenarios in her life are manipulated and twisted against her to create a cartoon version of herself that she really struggled to deal with. I found myself googling as I was reading (song lyrics, pap pictures, her over-the-top Brit Awards 2010 performance that she had no say in) to put it all in context.
Things I have leant about Lily Allen since reading this book:
- She actually has a very fractured relationship with her dad, Keith Allen (media throughout the years had led me to believe he played a big part in her career – not the case.)
- She was an extra in the film Elizabeth when she was 14 (I’ll have to watch it again now to spot her.)
- Very early in her career she was randomly managed by TV presenter, George Lamb.
- Smile was the very first song she wrote. Girl’s a natural.
- She is rubbish with money and rightly points out: ‘Why aren’t basic money and accountancy skills taught in all schools? Learning how to complete your tax returns and apply for a mortgage would be more useful than algebra, surely?’ I couldn’t directly relate to a lot of what Lily was saying in this book BUT this I could. Lily needed Money: A User’s Guide.
- She struggles with the mum / work balance too, ‘there was always a lot of eye rolling at my record label whenever I tried to balance out my working schedule to include seeing my kids.’ Her life is obviously v.different to mine but I really felt for her when she was describing the guilt and stress that comes with trying to raise children and keep your career going.
There are way more revelations and things that make you think, ‘Huh, I didn’t know that’, which is why this is such a brilliant read. It successfully puts Lily’s side of the story across. She gives a brutally honest, open and admirably reflective account of her life, while never coming across as self-indulgent. She is so frank about sex, relationships, the heartbreaking death of her child, her drug use, the seedy music industry, her behaviour: she knows she has behaved like a dick sometimes and says that. She also knows she has been treated badly – by the media, other people and calls them out too. I’m glad that Lily felt in a positive enough place to write My Thoughts Exactly: Putting her true self out there could have been a very vulnerable thing to do, but she owns it and shows she is not perfect by any means, but – crucially – she is now the one in control of her life.