Thursday, October 25, 2018

Book Review: 'Is Monogamy Dead?: Rethinking relationships in the 21st century' by Rosie Wilby

British author and award-winning comedian Rosie Wilby has appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Loose Ends, Summer Nights, Four Thought, Midweek, The Human Zoo and Woman’s Hour and at festivals including Glastonbury, Secret Garden Party, Green Man, Larmer Tree and Latitude. She was a finalist at Funny Women 2006 and Leicester Mercury Comedian of the Year 2007 and she’s been touring acclaimed solo shows internationally ever since, performing in New York, Los Angeles and Sydney and building a global word-of-mouth army of fans. A 2014 Mslexia finalist and 2016 LAMBDA fellow, Rosie has had articles published in The Sunday Times, The Guardian, The Independent, New Statesman, Diva and more. Her debut book IS MONOGAMY DEAD? follows her TEDx talk of the same name, BBC Radio 4 piece A New Currency of Commitment and a trilogy of solo shows investigating love and relationships. Her book shares a gripping account of her very personal quest to grapple with the science of modern relationships. She is currently gathering ideas and inspiration for her second book in her new monthly podcast The Breakup Monologues, featuring acclaimed comedy friends telling her their breakup stories. Rosie co-hosts Radio Diva on Resonance FM (described by New York's The Village Voice as the 'best station in the world') every Tuesday and has presented for BBC Sussex and Surrey.

As we all walk through the current mélange of cellphone addicts sending selfies and texts and chatting to flirt and hopping from dating site to another for possible encounters, along comes Rosie Wilby, an hilarious and insightful comedian who has that rare gift to look at the world and the manner in which we are living and relating in it hilarious but wise terms.

Dip into her Prologue for a taste – ‘Nobody warned me. ‘A bright young lady like you? The world’s your oyster. You could be a doctor. Go to Cambridge like your mother. You’ll be absolutely fine,’ said Mr. Wallington, our head of year. A sentiment echoed by pretty much every responsible adult I knew. I was a white, middle-class, British girl with two academic parents, an only child with no siblings vying for attention. Life would be cool. I got complacent and a little smug, occasionally flunking an exam on purpose because I knew I could get an A next time. And yet, as adulthood dawned, a darkness crept up through the cracks of the paving stones of the life they had all mapped out for me. The problem wasn’t being gay. Everyone was fine about that. Mum had even once tried to tell me something about her and her friend Joan on holiday. Fresh from an aerobic session in front of her ‘Mad Lizzie’ video, she emerged from the house sporting a green leotard and pink legwarmers to say, ‘I wouldn’t mind if I had a daughter who was a lesbian.’ Then came the masked revelation about her ‘close’ female friendships. Having totally disrupted my sun-kissed, adolescent reverie about a girl from the year below in school, she rushed back indoors to find a book of lesbian poetry so that she could recite it later over the tea table… to the silent horror of dad and me. No, being gay wasn’t the problem. The monster yapping and snarling at the heels of my happiness was called monogamy. Nobody warned me… about monogamy. Nobody told me that by the time I was forty, I would have had four serious relationships – great. Oh, and four, gut-wrenching, serious breakups – not so great. Each would smash me into a million pieces, the hammer wielded by a completely unexpected, exquisitely awful dance of mutual sacrifice; a compromise of my freedoms, desires and, ultimately, my identity and my soul. Each time, either I or my beloved would cave in and screw up the dance and betray all the lifelong promises we’d made. Each time, I’d put myself back together again and start all over again, trust all over again, hope all over again. I was exhausted. But nobody gave me a round of applause for this resilience. No wonder I sought out a career where I would habitually get two rounds of applause every night, maybe more if I’d done super well. Maybe I could make jokes about monogamy, about the heartbreak. I could pretend everything was fine, just like all those responsible adults had said.’

As Rosie comfortably puts it, ‘Whatever your personal preferences and peccadilloes, we’re all in this together. Love can be hard work, alongside all the amazing bits. So let’s hold each other’s hands and work out how to go about relationships in this scary, busy, digital twenty-first century. This is a call to arms. Love army, are you ready?‘ And from there she spins tales and interviews and research and observations that are often both hilarious and sad, introspective and beautifully scribed. Read and learn and appreciate the mind of one who has been there (and is still there) and puts it all into perspective. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, October 18

I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book.

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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