Book Review: Full Marks for Trying: An Unlikely Journey from the Raj to the Rag Trade by Brigid Keenan


Having recently passed a Waterstones’ window that advertised a book based on a hideously abused childhood with the words: “Seriously honest! Feel his pain!” it was a relief to read Brigid Keenan’s assessment of her own past. “It seems to me now that my childhood was the exact opposite of a misery memoir,” she says; “it was almost too happy, too sheltered, too cosy.”

It’s a relief, of course, to read that, but at the same time quite daunting. Is it possible to produce a readable memoir that’s full of joy? The answer is “Yes”. Keenan writes feelgood books. I’ve devoured Diplomatic Baggage and Packing Up – both memoirs of her time as a diplomatic wife in India and eastern Europe – and this account of her childhood and early career in the 1960s is another compulsive and humorous read.

We sometimes read autobiographies to find bits that resonate with us. This one chimed with me more than most. There was barely a page where I wasn’t wanting to email Keenan to tell her: “But I did that! My mother did that!” I’ve met her occasionally, both of us being journalists with only five years between us, but I never realised the similarities that are paraded through these pages. Read more