My Writings: My Reviews Of Books About Manic Street Preachers

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In The Beginning: My Life With The Manic Street Preachers

Jenny Watkins-Isnardi
Blake Publishing Ltd, 2000 - 308 pages

In The Beginning: My Life With The Manic Street Preachers

[Here's an article about Jenny Watkins-Isnardi, the author of this book, (there's a picture of her at the bottom of this page).]

It makes a good novel!

(2 of 5 stars) This is supposed to be the true story of the summer of 1987, when the author was Nicky Wire's girlfriend, and a singer with the Manic Street Preachers. It is filled with scenes that are so detailed, readers can feel they are right there amongst these people. The way someone turns her head, what people are wearing, even the way light falls on an object. But, this book was written a decade later. Does the author have the greatest memory, or did she copy her diary entries that were written when these events took place? Or, as I suspect, did she make up something plausible for what she couldn't remember? In other words, this book should be read as this - these events happened, not exactly this way, but they could have. (I'm giving the author the benefit of the doubt that the events described in the book actually occurred.)

Most problematic is the first three pages of chapter 13, where Nicky gets his acceptance letter to Portsmouth University. For example, the author writes about Nicky's dog, "staring at him with melancholy eyes as though she's read either the letter or James' mind." All very nice, but the author wasn't with Nicky at that time, so I wonder how she was able to read the dog's expression!

I found the writing style to be a bit hard to read at times. There are long exchanges of dialogue, sometimes a dozen or so lines, where the speakers aren't identified after the first few lines. Eventually, I lost track of who was saying what. Also, there were many places where I had to re-read a paragraph or two, because I felt like I had missed something the first time. But I hadn't. I also thought the ending wasn't very well-written. It seems as though the author either didn't know how to end her book, or had to rush it off to the publisher.

There are some fairly interesting things to learn about the Manics from this book. Nicky's mother is English, James is double-jointed, Nicky taught himself how to sew. According to this account, the band renamed themselves Betty Blue only during the time the author was a member of the group.

But, the reader also reads, in four separate places, that Nicky or James hardly know Richey at this time. (Richey wasn't a member of the band until 1989.) This is completely the opposite of every statement the band have ever made about how the four band members were close friends since childhood! This makes me question the author's memory and/or interpretation of events.

My overall impression of this book is that the author wrote it to cash in on the popularity of the Manic Street Preachers in the late 1990s. It includes some photographs, but they are of the band members from the 1990s. I would have expected some pictures of the people written about in the book, at the time when the book's events take place. There are also three letters from Richey to a friend of his, who is briefly mentioned elsewhere, tacked onto the end of the book, with no explanation as to why they are included. They're interesting enough, but they have no real connection to anything else. Perhaps they were included as a way to have more of Richey in this book, so that it would sell to his fans?

(Review written: 8 October 2003)

Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2006 Vivian Campbell. All rights reserved.

Jenny Watkins-Isnardi holding her book

Jenny Watkins-Isnardi holding her book

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