Tuesday, 1 December 2015


3 out of 5 stars

Domestic memoir/factual self-building tips

On Amazon UK HERE
On Amazon.com HERE

Reviewed by me as part of Rosie Amber's Book Review Team
This book appealed to me because the blurb said it's about a self-build, with all its ups and downs, and I used to love watching programmes like Grand Designs.
Although Mandy Clark writes well, I had a furrowed brow throughout this; my problem was that I couldn't work out if it was meant to be a lighthearted domestic memoir or a factual book for use by other self-builders.  The first 10% of the book is taken up with Mandy's own domestic situation: the problems of being a stepmother (very honest and relatable!), a detailed account of her wedding day and a fair amount of information about the people in the village where she and her husband live.  The parts about the gentleman with Alzheimer's were both amusing and touching throughout; a big 'bravo' for that.  Next, we moved on to Mandy's IVF and art work.  Amongst this is some detail about their housing problems, and getting planning permission to build a house on a piece of village land.

The build started in earnest when the bottom of my screen said about 30%.  Here my confusion grew: the book contains too much domestic and often quite personal detail for someone buying it for the purpose of comparison with their own self-build experience (or to get tips), but too much building information for a domestic style memoir.

I'd looked forward to reading about the building of the house; much of it was to-do lists and weighing up of financial pros and cons, an account of what they were hoping/planning to do, then how successful it was.  There are some quite funny bits here and there, but writing up practical procedures in such a way that they hold the attention is extremely difficult.

I think this would have been better as a series of blog posts, with pictures, rather than a book, so you could see the progress, and really get to know the characters.  It's chatty, the people likable, but I feel its current form has limited appeal.  Mandy has a pleasant and readable writing style, but publishing one's diary is always a challenge: can you make your life sound interesting enough to capture the interest of a total stranger?

Sorry not to give a higher star rating, but the 3* represent the fact that the writing is very accessible, the domestic parts pleasant to read, and I do think it contains value for anyone who is embarking on a similar venture.

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