Book Review – Is It Just Me? by Miranda Hart

books, reviews

15733346 5_star_rating_system_2_and_a_half_starsI had Monday off this week because of a hospital appointment. Officially, I didn’t need the day off but I thought I’d do it anyway. After all, taking the morning off and going in the afternoon would make me sad. So, I basically had a free day. I decided to take the opportunity to get another book read this week. I say read but, really, I mean listen. I’ve decided that audiobooks are going to help me get my reading groove back. Getting another chance to get through a whole book in one day means I’m back on track with my numbers and gives me a bit longer to finish my current read. It takes the pressure off a little. I’ve never been a massive fan of audiobooks because I find that I get distracted too easily. This is still a problem but I’m getting better. And being more exposed to them is helping me see the positives. There are certain books which just work better as an audiobook. Let’s not forget Lincoln in the Bardo which was one of the greatest listening experiences I’ve ever had. Then there are books that really need to be read out by the author. Like Nomad from last week. This is another one. I’ve never been a huge fan of celebrity memoir/self-help style books. It’s just not my thing. But I like Miranda Hart and wanted to give this a go. And it wasn’t like I had anything else going on today.

When a human being starts a sentence with “is it just me” the one thing that you can be absolutely sure of is that, no, it isn’t just them. Just like the phrase “I’m not racist but” is an indicator of someone with strident racist views, the phrase “is it just me” highlights an incoming unoriginal thought. So, before I’d even started this book, I suspected that everything that I was about to hear was something I’d have heard countless times before. But it fits with Miranda Hart’s brand. She has sort of become the everywoman of British comedy. She supposedly says the things everybody is thinking and highlights her clumsiness as a badge of honour. She’s made a career from accepting her flaws and mistakes. I am a fan of her work and think she probably has a great personality. She’s basically about not taking life too seriously and just having fun. That’s something I can get behind.

So, despite my reticence, I was interested to see how this book would go. It’s written as a sort of memoir/self-help guide in which Hart discusses several key areas of modern life. She goes through some of the issues that she has and how difficult it is trying to find your place. Throughout the book, Hart “talks” to her 18-year-old self about how far she has come. The elder Hart ends up having to justify her current lifestyle against the lavish expectations of her past self. Hart goes back over her past in order to present situations in which she found herself completely boggled by life. It never gets too deep into the past or reveals an awful lot of personal stuff. In fact, it mostly feels like an elongated stand-up comedy routine but not the kind that is funny enough to get picked for a Netflix special.

One of the main issues I have with this book is the constant commentary. In her show, Hart would often break the fourth wall and address the audience. This book follows that gimmick and wastes plenty of time making pleasantries to the audience. It’s not something that I think works or makes for a particularly successful form of narration. Whether it’s filler to pad it out or just an attempt to connect it to the show, it doesn’t add anything to the book. Neither, I have to say, does the conceit of the comedian talking to herself. It’s something that’s pretty overdone these days and I’m not sure using loads of insane abbreviations really justifies it from a comedy standpoint either. If anything, the constant appearances of the younger Hart only ended up messing with the pace of the book. As did the several instances where Hart paused the action to take a look back on what we’d learnt. It just felt like we were stalling for time.

This is a book written in a specific way to suit a specific audience. If you aren’t part of that audience then there might not be enough here for you. It’s not even as though the book feels particularly personal. I know it’s not an autobiography so I wasn’t expecting in-depth biographical information. But this books feels as though it was written in character. If it hadn’t been for the references to Hart’s real-life friends and other things that tie it to reality, I would have believed this book were a spin-off from her sitcom. Something not helped by the fact so much of the humour is recycled from the show itself.

What annoys me about this book is that it is presented as a sort of self-help book that has been written with the intention to show people that everyone struggles with life. Yet, it has the stink of something hastily written to cash-in on the success of her sitcom. It doesn’t feel as though it was written with much care. The humour doesn’t feel fresh or new. The self-help aspect feels trite and fairly vapid. Hart’s personality doesn’t exactly shine in written form either. The whole book just feels repetitive and lacking in depth. And for a book that’s supposedly about being yourself and not criticising others, Hart is very critical of other people. For instance, she belittles fans of science-fiction and recycles the old joke about them all living in their mother’s basement. It’s just an unoriginal, out-of-date, and bad attempt at being funny.

And it’s not just small, throwaway jokes either. In one section she discusses beauty. In this chapter, she suggests that ugly people have a major benefit of being shunned by society. Instead of having friends or lovers they spend their time studying and becoming important people. The beautiful people waste their time with people who respond to their looks so end up not making anything of themselves. Of course, it is the “normal” looking people, a group Hart puts herself in, who have it worst. They end up neither successful or having spent their youth understanding the world of dating. So, they end up clueless on social norms and lacking professional power. I realise this chapter was probably written in jest but so much of this book discusses letting people be who they want to be. Yet Hart is more than willing to use these toxic stereotypes for humorous purposes while she continues to push her position as an everywoman. It’s disappointing.

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