Book review: Spectacles, by Sue Perkins

I have long been a Sue Perkins fan.  Ever since I saw her and Mel Giedroyc interviewing someone in their slightly surreal fashion on Light Lunch, I was a confirmed fan of their silly, clever, madcap ways. After that show finished they both bobbed in and out of my ken, cropping up solo or together from time to time on talking-heads shows, nostalgia listigrammes and shows various about food, travel, and music.

When I started watching The Great British Bake Off I was delighted to rediscover my love of the Mel & Sue magic.  If Tess & Claudia are the slightly aloof prefects of the television presenting school (lovely, perfect, most likely to win things but a little too pristine and polished for me to cope with), Mel & Sue are your mates at the back of the bus – whip-smart, hysterically funny, and very, very fond of an innuendo.  From the get go I loved their silly antics on GBBO (stealing snatches of food, mugging with baked goods) and also adored how they empathised with the contestants, willing them to succeed and never making it seem like anything was too big to overcome.  Along with the goddess that is Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, the straight man to their comedic mania, the team was perfection and I was hooked.

Shona and I are very, very into Bake Off.  It forms part of a duo of what we call our ‘judgement TV’.  We watch these shows with cups of tea or glasses of wine on a Wednesday evening, or later in the week on catch up if life is busy, and the two shows we favour run one after the other in the year.  Bake Off comes first, full of charm and whimsy, sweet contestants and gentle, lovely programming. Straight after that (literally, one week afterwards!) comes The Apprentice, which is a whole different kettle of fish, but no less compulsive! We often joke that the contestants on Bake Off are the people you’d like to take to the pub; many of those on The Apprentice are those you’d avoid in the pub (or at least it always seems that way until they finally  thaw out with Jack Dee on You’re Fired and you get to know them properly).

So when it came to Christmas gifts, one of my presents from Shona was Spectacles, Sue Perkins’ autobiographyI love a good biography, but have been burned by poor celeb autobiographies in the past so I greeted the book with a mixture of glee (because lovely SP) and anticipatory fear….
…it turns out only one of those emotions was the correct one, because Spectacles is a marvellous book.  Witty, well-written, quirky and charming, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and romped through it at a rate of knots.  It was a bit of a dangerous book to read on the tube, however – one chapter would have me chortling away like nobody’s business, the next would make me weep. Particularly moving were parts on family, health and love; but I confess to some real lump in the throat moments over stories involving beloved pets, too.  They truly are a gift.

I was so impressed with the deftness of touch Perkins’ brought to her prose – her cast of characters are beautifully drawn and her self-deprecating wit (and occasional bouts of toilet humour) makes the pages fly.  There was such a great balance of fun, laughter, thoughtfulness and sadness throughout Spectacles. By the end of the book, as I turned the final page, I truly felt I knew Sue a little better, and was so pleased to have read such a sweet, touching, and entertaining book.  Highly recommended.
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