Girl Least Likely To: Thirty years of fashion, fasting and Fleet Street by Liz Jones
Published by Simon & Schuster
16th January 2014
Liz Jones is Fashion Editor of the Daily Mail, and a columnist for the Mail on Sunday. She is the former editor of Marie Claire, which sounds quite an achievement, but she was sacked three years in. A psychotherapist once told her, ‘What you brood on will hatch’, and she was right. Nothing Liz ever did in life ever worked out. Nothing. Not one single thing.
Liz grew up in Essex, the youngest of seven children. Her mother was a martyr, her dad so dashing that no other man could ever live up to his pressed and polished standards. Her siblings terrified her, with their Afghan coats, cigarettes, parties, sex and drugs. They made her father shout, and her mother cry.
Liz became an anorexic aged eleven, an illness that continues to blight her life today. She remained a virgin until her thirties, and even then found the wait wasn’t really worth it; it was just one more thing to add to her to do list. She was named Columnist of the Year 2012 by the British Society of Magazine Editors, but is still too frightened to answr the phone, too filled with disgust at her own image to glance in the mirror or eat a whole avocado.
She lives alone with her four rescued collies, three horses and seventeen cats. Girl Least Likely To is the opposite of ‘having it all’. It is a life lesson in how NOT to be a woman.
I went to visit my mum today. She is in her old bedroom, still in the semi-detached Sixties’ house she shared with my dad in Saffron Walden in Essex, but the room could now by anywhere. Or at least, anywhere inside an institution. Her bedroom furniture has been taken away – the double divan, the heavy, dark dressing table – as the carers found it to be in the way, too low, too high, too heavy. Basically, my mum’s pride and joy, Pledged over many decades, contravened health and safety. She is, instead, in a narrow hospital cot, with metal bars on each side, a hoist above her hovering like an obscene child’s mobile. It twinkles, I suppose, when someone has bothered to open the curtains (a ritual that began and ended my mum’s every day, whilst she could still wield a mop to shove the heavy, oak curtain pole back up into place, given it always drooped with the weight of the blue velvet). But rather than being a comfort, the mobile-hoist hybrid is a constant reminder of her infirmity.
Everything in the room is the colour of her dentures, which she no longer wears, given she no longer eats solids. There are pads and wipes and cotton wool and anti-bac gels everywhere, as though she were a giant baby. She is served tiny spoons of baby food by a Latvian carer who shouts, from time to time, ‘How are you feeling today, Meesees Jones?’ A lifelong tea addict, her only liquid is lukewarm water, syringed from a small pipette into her gaping maw; a mouth like that of a long-neglected baby bird. Occasionally, the water hits the back of her throat and she splutters. She can no longer watch TV, even if she could ever find her glasses (a lifelong quest), or listen to the radio, so these last ornaments of normality have been excised. She doesn’t really know it is me, her youngest child, her baby, her Lizzie (her other children were summoned with a roll call – ClarePhilipNickLynTonySue – until she hit upon the right one, but she always knew it was me) sitting by her bed, my silver laptop a shield from her torment.
Liz Jones is a bit like Marmite. You either love her or hate her and this book will not change that. Many who already dislike her will read this and continue to do so. Those of the three million readers of her column in the Mail on Sunday will read it and love every word. So what about those who aren’t sure, or have maybe never even heard of Liz Jones? (At the time of writing, Liz is currently gracing our tv screens on Channel 4's Big Brother).
Journalist and fashionista Liz Jones never felt she would be good at anything. She only really had two ambitions, to own a horse and to appear in Vogue magazine. The first she finally managed a few years ago, the latter she never achieved. Starting out as reporter on Lyons Mail, Liz worked her way up through the likes of Company magazine until she was offered the role of Editor of Marie Claire. She was to dramatically fall from grace just three years into the role by challenging the ‘body issue’ and the way that magazines portray women.
This is Liz’s account of her life, from her first childhood home by the A130 that she was too scared to cross, to her failed marriage to an adulterous husband; Liz reveals all. I will readily admit to being a reader, and admirer, of her column in the MoS. I do think that she has become a parody of herself, that with her writing she has created a persona that she now cannot afford to shake off. But, she has an unfailing talent for writing, and publishing things that shouldn’t be said, but for Liz, that has made her career. She no longer has a husband, or very many friends as a result but she tells it as she sees it. She is nothing but unseeingly honest. I actually really enjoyed this book, she focuses more on her earlier years than the later ones of her marriage, and current relationships, but that’s what the book is about; if you want the latest ins-and-outs of her life, read her weekly column. However, I wouldn’t want to be Liz Jones for anything. She clearly is a woman who tries too hard, and seemingly fails at almost everything in doing so. Is she her own worse enemy? Probably.