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My Animal Life by Maggie Gee
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My Animal Life (2010)

by Maggie Gee

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I've never read any of Maggie Gee's novels, but I enjoyed reading her autobiography. Gee grew up in a working-class family and went on to Oxford and a literary career. While Gee has always been committed to a literary life, a life of the mind, Gee's point in her autobiography is that one cannot deny one's animal influences. The memoir is a record of how these animal influences: birth, sex, love, death, have shaped her life. This is also an autobiography about class. Gee came of age at a time when the British class system was being overhauled, and working-class children could first aspire to an upper-class education.

I enjoy autobiographies because I like to see how people make sense of their lives. This one offers an interesting look at the publishing industry, and at the demands of writing. It likewise provides a look at growing up with a difficult and demanding father. For all these things, there were times when I found my interest in the book flagging. Gee is rather liberal in offering advice, which I didn't necessarily need or want. There are also points at which reading about others' animal instincts ceases to be interesting. Most readers will gravitate towards this autobiography because of their interest in Gee's literary career, and those tend to be the best parts of the book. The appeal of this book comes from the fact that Gee is not merely an animal like everyone else, but a writer. ( )
  lahochstetler | Jul 1, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Although I have not yet read any novels by Maggie Gee, her name is familiar to me as a prize-winning author. Her autobiography, My Animal Life is an interesting account of her life. The first half of the book focuses on her family and childhood; the rest of the book focuses on her career as a writer. She does not shy away from the difficulties she has faced - from writer’s block, to being rejected by publishers despite being an accomplished author, to finding the time to write when she has a young child. She also writes at length about the creative process, and it’s interesting to see how her upbringing has influenced her work. As a result of reading this memoir, I will be seeking out her novels to add to my reading pile. ( )
  chazzard | Sep 26, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
My Animal Life was well-written, much about Gee's unhappy childhood with a physically-abusive father, an unhappy mother and two brothers but didn't become interesting to me until she grows up, goes to Oxford and writes about the Sixties and her later life, especially her career as an author (with a dozen books behind her). ( )
  featherbooks | Sep 20, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Class was an important factor in British education, work, and society just a few decades ago, and probably still is to a lesser extent. Maggie Gee describes how it impacted her choices and path in life. It is a captivating life story beginning in an era when attitudes and values were undergoing sweeping changes. Her memoir is not particularly exciting or stirring, but it is a brave, compelling mission in soul-searching. Her success as a writer is evident in the expressive style, making the story both interesting and entertaining. I commend Gee for being able to open her heart and write so frankly. ( )
  VivienneR | Sep 12, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Maggie Gee's memoir would have been so much better if she had just stuck to writing about her life. Born to complex, imperfect parents who didn't always make the right decision, and living her twenties in the '60s, Gee has led an interesting life. She writes about her rather trying childhood and subsequent sexual rebellion in her early adulthood with the right amount of sarcasm and self-awareness, and I enjoyed the backstory into her parents' families as well. Where this book falls apart, however, is in Gee's desire to give the reader advice on various aspects of life. I don't look to an author to teach me how to raise children, or how to navigate the confusing world that is dating - I just want to read about his or her life. I can learn my life lessons on my own, thanks, and last I checked, writing novels does not give one an automatic degree in psychology or sociology. Also, Gee's overarching metaphor is that her life has been like an animal's, and that humans are really not that different from other living creatures. I get this, and it is an admirable stance to take, but I didn't need to be reminded of it on every single page. After a while, I found myself yelling "I get it!" at the pages of the book. Yes, animals deserve our respect. Yes, lots of life is about luck. Thanks tips.

So, skim the sections where Gee dispenses her advice, especially the last chapter on souls, which is rather ridiculous, and just focus on her coming of age story. Actually, if you want a better exploration of life in the '60s, sexual freedom, and art, read Patti Smith's Just Kids ( )
2 vote Cait86 | Sep 9, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
Gee's deft accomplishment in this absorbing memoir is to plot her life in relation to several explanatory systems. There's the social-historical, which has her blossoming into the late 60s, made fearless by the new contraceptive pill. There is the psychological, which sees her making some bad career decisions including signing with an agent she doesn't like just because his fanciness (not to mention height) impresses her. There's the genetic, which has her puzzling over how her gypsy-dark mother could have produced her own white-blonde self while she, straight-haired, has produced a curly-headed daughter. But most of all there is the animal which cares not a jot for any of these causational narratives but revels instead in the sensation of here and now and tries to live – and write – on instinct.
 
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I am alive at the time of writing this. And so are you.
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Maggie Gee tells her story of becoming an adult during the sexual revolution of the 1960s and living through dramatic changes in attitudes towards race, class and gender in the second half of the 20th century.

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