Book: Is It Just Me? by Miranda Hart
Three years ago a blurb and photo in a PBS viewing guide happened to catch my eye. It was for a series about nurse-midwives in post WWII London. So we’re talking about a high quality British, historical, and medical series featuring strong female characters. What more could I ask for? I tuned in to watch the pilot of Call the Midwife and have been hooked ever since.
As always, my favorite part of storytelling is the characters. While I like Jenny, the main character, she isn’t nearly as interesting to me as the supporting characters around her. There is Sister Julienne, the serene, enlightened, diplomatic, and consummate leader. There is Sister Monica Joan, the eccentric retiree who seems to inhabit her own slightly child-like world until she comes out with some wry and insightful take on the issue at hand. There is party-girl Trixie and her surprising romance with the neighborhood vicar (I’m still rooting for a reconciliation, BTW) and no-nonsense Sister Evangelina who hides a heart of gold beneath a gruff exterior. And then there is Chummy—endearingly gawky, gangly, self-deprecating, humorous, and as generous as her outsized frame. Portrayed by actress/comedienne Miranda Hart, Chummy quickly becomes the heart of the show. So when I encountered a non-fiction book written by Miss Hart, of course I had to read it.
And I am ever so glad that I did.
Is it Just Me is essentially Miss Hart’s musings on several topical issues, such as body image, work, getting through the holidays, dating, the prevalence of technology, and dieting, among others. She gives us (whom she calls MDRC, My Dear Reader Chums) her take on these matters, often asking “Is it just me who…” (as in, “Is it just me who hasn’t bought in to the need for a £700 Mulberry bag?”)
So often I found my answer to be, “No, MDWC (My Dear Writer Chum), it isn’t just you. As in anyone who spends $1077 (using today’s exchange rate) for a purse should have her head examined.” When a purse costs significantly more that all the items in it combined, something is wrong. But perhaps that’s just me. Well, me and Miss Hart.
In addition to, for the most part, agreeing with her take on things, I was also quite taken with her writing style. Most chapters open up with an introduction to the topic, often with an anecdote from Miss Hart’s life. She then checks in with her 18-year-old self, basically telling young Miranda that her life will not exactly turn out as she expects. Young Miranda responds and there is usually a spirited exchange between the two. Confusing, you think? Actually it’s not. I might not give justice to Miss Hart’s technique here, but I promise she pulls it off well.
The other thing she pulls off so well is the humor. OK, she should, since she is a comedienne, but I have to say I find Miss Hart’s trademark wit seriously funny. The combination of the topics she writes about, her self-effacing approach, her vivid descriptions, and her quintessential British-isms (hence the title of this post) is hilarious to me. Uproariously so. I mean, I was literally laughing out loud throughout my reading of this book. That’s rare, and that’s a gift.
I do have one slight criticism, though (thus explaining the 4 instead of 5 rating). I had a minor problem with Miss Hart’s technology chapter. While I agreed with her stance on the over-dependence and over-use of personal technology and social media in today’s society, I found this chapter to be somewhat preachy and therefore a bit off-putting. But this was a small blip in an otherwise charming book.
I seem to remember reading somewhere (although I cannot recall where) that Jennifer Worth, author of Call the Midwife, thoroughly approved of, and perhaps even suggested, Miss Hart for the role of Chummy. If that is indeed true, after reading this book I can totally see why. Miss Hart, you might worry that your out-of-the-mainstream opinions are singular and unique, but I assure you they are not. It is not just you.