I’ve always been a huge fan of Lily Allen’s music and I love an autobiography, so when I heard that she was writing one I was very excited. My Thoughts Exactly is an addictive read that doesn’t disappoint. I’ve always considered Allen to be a bit of a lyrical genius, but now she’s proved herself as a talented writer beyond the realm of music.
As much as I wanted to savour My Thoughts Exactly, I whizzed through it because it’s so engaging and moving. Allen reveals her darkest moments, fesses up to her failings and raises awareness about a whole bunch of important issues.
The book chronicles her life so far but not in a strictly chronological order. Always a controversial figure, the tabloid press has often had it in for Allen, so there are some events that you expect to read about, some that show just how wrong some of Allen’s critics appear to have been and others that you don’t see coming. Unsurprisingly, given the title, the stories are very much from her perspective, she doesn’t try to give other sides of the story because she can only give her version of events. From the off, she’s very open and honest about what you’re about to read.
It’s not a particularly happy book, but I wasn’t expecting it to be. Tackling drug abuse, stalking, infidelity, assault, stillbirth, divorce and mental health, it’s a rough ride. Allen writes it all so vividly and honestly that you’ll often be angry at various people and things, including, but not limited to, Allen’s parents, the music industry, the police, the press and Lily Allen herself. She apologies for the racism in the satirical music video for Hard Out Here and says it was a result of her not paying attention to what was going on around her. Given her very intense personal life that seems entirely possible, but also, it isn’t really good enough, is it? She does, however, talk about how once she stopped being defensive about it she then became interested in intersectional feminism. Allen seems determined to learn from her mistakes but doesn’t deny them ever having happened.
My Thoughts Exactly documents a lot of chaos. In fact, it’s not unlike the late, great Carrie Fisher’s autobiographies, it’s certainly written as well as them only with considerably less humour. It gets really dark at times, and you find yourself wincing through several chapters, but happily, it has a hopeful ending.
Allen also departs from the big events to talk about some topics in broader terms, female sexuality is one of them — which of course caught my attention (#sexualityinculture)! She discusses her struggle with orgasm and the lessons she had to learn to take her own pleasure seriously — it turns out that the song It’s Not Fair wasn’t written about one partner in particular but all sexual encounters in general. Even more relevant to this blog, she touches upon how trauma impacted her menstrual cycle and contraception. #Nevernotrelevant
For fans of her music, it’s a must-read. One of my favourite things about Allen’s music is that it’s not all romantic love songs, she writes about the press and politics, siblings and parenthood, loss and feminism. All the backstories you’ve imagined from the lyrics and dodgy press coverage are set aside as you learn the real stories behind the songs. It doesn’t make them less relatable, instead, it allows her music to mean even more.