Allen & Unwin
“I used to be a boozy housewife. Now I’m not. This is my book” – that’s the subtitle/intro. And before Lotta Dann was known (“boozy housewife” of TV political reporter, Corin Dann) she was just Mrs D – anonymous. She of the blog that’s now this book. This book is her story around her own private struggle with alcohol.
I like to think that any story that explains addiction, breaks down the psychological troubles around it and has a happy-story of escape (a breaking down of the addiction) is a good one. A necessary one. We should arm ourselves with all sorts of information to help understand ourselves and/or the people we know and love that wrestle with such troubles. I still think that. I guess.
It might seem churlish to criticise this book then. But here goes…
I can’t quite believe that Lotta Dann’s “struggle” is quite real. That’s my opinion on her opinion, that doesn’t mean she hasn’t achieved her own clarity – and bonus moonlighting career. But Mrs D Is Going Without reads like some First World Problems/Stuff White People Like (But Shouldn’t Like TOO Much parody. Only, apparently, it is not.
That doesn’t mean I’m not a little disgusted with my own thoughts that a bottle of wine a night isn’t really a problem. But I can’t help but be cynical around this. I’m thrilled to think that someone has addressed their own problem and been very public with it – deciding too to look at the idea of functioning alcoholism; that you don’t have to be down and out and broke and homeless to have a problem. But the gushings in this book scream privilege and safety. Here was a person that didn’t like who she had become for quaffing back a bottle or half a bottle a night. But this is also a person in bed reading at 10pm.
So the 5pm jitters arrived most days and the glass of wine warded off any thoughts of wanting to smack the kids. The bottle was finished later, over dinner. A lot of parents will know that version of life. Some might even crave it. There’s no correct way to pull rank here and suggest the author has trumped up the charges of alcoholism against herself. But it still made for an unconvincing book for me. The cover alone screams chick-lit-meets-self-help-goes-out-shopping-stops-for-a-lovely-glass-of-white-wine-soda.
And the book is filled with self-congratulatory passages – messages from other addicts include bon mots around Dann’s own writing, which is needlessly narcissistic, given the book’s message is supposed to be around people supporting one another with struggles, middle-class or otherwise. Not back-pats for newfound hobbies.
I sound like a cunt. Because I can’t possibly know Dann’s struggle with the drink.
But I found this book a bit false. A 1200-word light, whimsical essay turned into 60,000-word book with back-pats galore.
But if it helps anyone else at all realise and address a problem then it’s done its job.
And maybe I’ll always be a jerk. There’s clearly no book that can help me.