‘Barking Blondes’ by Anna Webb and Jo Good was published this summer, but I’m a slow reader … and even slower reviewer. However, as the author of ‘DASH: Bitch of the Year’, I couldn’t miss out on the chance to say a few words about a book written by two of the UK’s best-known and self-confessed ‘bitches’.
In actual fact, if you know anything about Anna and Jo, you won’t be surprised to learn that their book is anything but ‘bitchy’. They co-present BBC London’s ‘The Barking Hour’ – a radio show which I’ve had the good fortune of appearing on to talk about Dash and greyhounds generally – and I can testify that they’re both warm, funny, energetic and, erm, a bit barking!
The book itself certainly looks impressive, with the dustjacket featuring a crisp, colour-coordinated photo of the authors and their canines (complete with ‘BB’ emblem). The endorsements are by none other than Julie Burchill and Julian Clary. My copy also featured two fine ‘pawtographs’ on the flyleaf from Molly and Matilda. At the head of each chapter are lovely line drawings by Abigail Read and there are eight pages of full-colour photos in the centre. So full marks for presentation.
But what about the content? Well, ‘Barking Blondes’ is the story of how the two women met and formed a close, professional friendship; it’s also the story of their much loved dogs: Molly, a miniature Bull Terrier and Matilda, a Bulldog. Along the way, we learn about the men in the women’s lives and how they inevitably come second to a whirlwind of media-related adventures where their dogs are the only invitees.
Readers will be reassured to learn that there are plenty of genuinely funny events – from doggy-paddling in a rock star’s pool … to having a guest on the radio show turning up with a Semtex-soaked bag for his sniffer dog to track down on air. Such ‘hilarious’ episodes have become the staple of any pet memoir (I plead guilty here, too). The book also has a number of charming turns which many dog-loving readers will identify with. One such is Anna’s dotty lingo which she uses to communicate with Molly (‘Nufftall grafull, Molls!’); another is the ‘Noodle song’ which Anna and Jo both sing when out and about. For me, however, the thing that makes it both brave and readable is that underneath these episodes is a touching portrait of two women who, in their own words, are ‘hard-working, focused, childless, dog-obsessed’ and trying to keep their (human, male) partners happy and not always succeeding.
Jo Good, as the more established celebrity, is the lead character and narrator. She can certainly write – or Anna, who it’s fair to say probably gets more practice, can certainly write well enough for both of them. There’s a bit of name-dropping (Clare Balding makes the inevitable appearance), but that’s to be expected from two media-savvy women who are currently on the Alan Titchmarsh Show. There’s also a shocking revelation about Jo’s relationship with Big George, musician and fellow presenter on BBC London. You can’t help but applaud the honesty in sharing what must have been a desperately difficult situation.
If I had a couple of teeny criticisms, it’s that the book suffers slightly from trying to be too many things at once: celebrity-cum-pet memoir with chick-lit confessional on the side. The authors have also been done a bit of a disservice by the proofreading. Typos and howlers abound (pun intended) – for example, poor Anna should try smoking ‘Marlboro’ instead of the market town in Wiltshire (‘Marlborough’)!These things aside, it's definitely worth shelling out your hound pounds for a copy. Like their inimitable radio show, you just have to ‘get it’. This reader certainly did, and I’ll be sneaking my copy into Dash’s Christmas stocking, along with a tripe stick as bookmark. Woof woof!