My Animals and Other Family by Clare Balding – a review

By Paola Bassanese

Clare Balding at the book signing of her autobiography, London 18th September 2012

A whole twitter campaign is taking place to get Clare Balding to get at least a damehood and more daringly to become Prime Minister; the UK is officially in love with Clare Balding and her professional, passionate, compassionate and sensitive approach to TV commentating.

Her autobiography, My Animals and Other Family, is refreshingly reassuring: in an age of celebrities being famous for being famous, Clare had to fight hard both within her own family as well as at school and sport to make a name for herself.

Hard work has paid off for Clare but her struggles as a child of the Queen’s horse trainer cast a shadow over what would have been a much happier childhood. If only her parents loved her more for what she really was … most of the affection her father, mother and grandmother had was completely channelled into the family’s dogs and horses.

The heartfelt stories Clare narrates about her childhood and her pet animals plus her struggles as school to feel included and loved resonate with most of us. Her writing style is fresh, unassuming and direct without any affectation which makes reading her autobiography a pure joy.

At Shoreditch House Literary Salon hosted by Damian Barr Clare shared some fun stories from her book including the infamous “sausage accident” with the Queen.

Alongside the fun, quirky, embarassing and inspiring stories, I was particularly moved by the experience Clare and her schoolmates had in the Lake District in what I could only describe as a mixture of “corporate team bonding” and “bootcamp” aka the “Outward Bound” course. Lead by Mike Evans, a group of spoilt teenagers had to jump in a freezing lake, sleep in non-waterproof tents, abseil and climb. Without giving too much away, I was thrilled to read how Clare demonstrated true leadership skills and the compassion and sensitivity that she clearly showed while covering the Olympics and more importantly the Paralympics at London 2012.

I can only say: buy the book.