Book Review – My Animals and Other Family by Clare Balding

First published 2012


A humorous and heartfelt memoir.

Sitting in my armchair, a dog on my lap, a coffee to one side, I felt like I was being told a story by a friend. I devoured this book. Each chapter is named for an animal from Clare’s childhood, and every page is packed with anecdotes, family stories, horse facts and the youthful, emotional rollercoaster of, let’s face it, a national treasure.

An early story that made me actually laugh out loud (thus generating a look of contempt, which quickly melted into a nap, from the dog on my lap) was when Clare and her infant brother, Andrew, decided to paint the puppy shed. They had located a pot of turquoise paint and, well – I won’t tell you the whole thing. The fact is, they were children, trying to do something nice, without seeking approval or supervision. It was to be a nice surprise. I had tears of joy rolling down my face just reading it. Delightful.

Here’s a quote from later, when Clare is a teenager in Paris, which I feel really exhibits the author’s self-effacing humour, and incredible readability:

“I walked past the glorious city hall, re-creating in my romantic teenage brain The Kiss by Robert Doisneau. I wanted to be the woman in that photo, so I hung around the Hôtel de Ville hoping someone might kiss me. It didn’t work.”
Excerpt: page 216, Chapter 16, Knock Knock – My Family and Other Animals by Clare Balding.

Highly recommended. Go shopping.

Okay, fine.
Since you ask – here’s The Kiss by Robert Doisneau.