My Thoughts Exactly by Lily Allen
I was insanely excited to read this book; as soon as I learned of its existence, I was intrigued. Non-fiction, autobiographies and memoirs are not something that I read often, nor are they what I enjoy reading (which sometimes I think is a bit strange seeing as I only write non-fiction, autobiographical, memoir-y kind of posts), but there was definitely something about My Thoughts Exactly that made me purchase it, even when doubt started to creep in.
Before I started reading it, I will admit that I was scared that I was going to be as underwhelmed and uninterested as I have been with previous forays into the non-fiction literary world. I was tentative.
As soon as I began reading it, I knew that I was going to be pleasantly surprised (that’s an understatement really). I absolutely loved the voice of Lily Allen. I loved the simplicity of her words and that never, not once, did she give any more information than absolutely necessary. Her stories were her stories and nothing more – she didn’t ever need to beef them out with random details or filler fluff. And that is what I have never liked about biographical works; I don’t like being treated as a simple reader that can’t follow emotional syntax and experiences. More often than not, when I have tried to read biographies they are either too detail-orientated or too self-centred. Now I realise that as a autobiography it will be about someone and yes, will be centred around them, but there is a certain amount of story-telling needed rather than just “I did this, I felt that,” etc. etc. Ya feel me?
Anyway, I digress.
My Thoughts Exactly provides an honest, raw and uninhibited foray into the world of Lily Allen. Even though her experiences, lifestyle and childhood are so far removed from anything that I have ever known it didn’t stop me being able to connect with them at all. In fact, I was able to really empathise with her because instead of talking about the experience itself (private jets, drugs, a pretty full on stalker, famous parents, a deeply upsetting stillbirth etc.), Allen looked inward and spoke mainly of how she interacted with the world around her. The entire book felt like a really big, powerful and very emotional letting go for Lily Allen – and it made me really envious that she was able to write and publish so freely everything that has made her the woman she is today – scars, mistakes, flaws and all.
I also loved that she remained incredible humble whilst also acknowledging her success. She spoke frankly about her achievements, many of which I was unaware of, but didn’t rattle on about them. She spoke of them matter-of-factly which I respect immensely. It allowed me to continue to connect with her words throughout the book, no matter the grand nature of her dalliances. Another thing that really surprised me was the understanding I felt around her drug use. I am not comfortable with drug use, at all. I don’t like hearing about it, knowing about it or thinking about it. For me, there is just something about drugs that triggers fear in me, and that has always been the case. For a majority of her adult life, Allen struggled with substance abuse – both alcohol and drugs. But once again, the stories were told with such delicacy and instead of focusing on the event itself, Allen instead used this book to explain the ‘why’. I love her introspection and her knowledge of self and the fact that every one of her decisions, behaviour and actions has reason behind it – not an excuse, but a reason.
I have, for a very long time, longed to write something autobiographical detailing my own experiences, mistakes and flaws (again, I realise how weird it is that I want to write non-fiction but don’t like reading it) and My Thoughts Exactly has only fed that want and desire. What I really gained from Allen’s book is that there is such confidence and strength in vulnerability. Imagine how light and free you would feel if all of your deepest, darkest secrets, thoughts and feelings were out there in the world. To me, that would be everything. To embrace that fear, to lay everything out there and to completely surrender to whatever comes next would just be so utterly liberating. Lily Allen admits to sleeping with female escorts, to cheating on her husband, to being the person someone cheated with, to the mistakes she has made as a mother – she has written about things that are so deeply intimate and personal and most of the time that are kept to oneself. What she has done though, is started a conversation. Through her vulnerability and her willingness to be judged and ridiculed and mocked, she has also allowed for her mistakes to be held by the masses – I am certain that she is not the only one who has made one or all of these mistakes.
Overall, My Thoughts Exactly utterly entranced me. I felt like I was listening to a friend tell me a story for the entire time I was reading it. Dealing with some pretty heavy issues including a traumatic miscarriage and stillbirth, Lily Allen has been able to bring these experiences to a whole new audience in a way that is accessible, sensitive and intelligent. I loved this book and would highly recommend. Highly.