I tend to steer clear of biographies. Especially ones involving abusive uncles, drug addiction and the stories of cheats and liars. So I entered the world of Lily Bragge with some trepidation. But I found myself reading her story, titled My Dirty Shiny Life, which incorporates all of these themes, with something close to enjoyment.
This is not the best book I\’ve ever read, but I have to say Lily Bragge manages to tell her often harrowing story with aplomb. It is direct, laugh out loud funny in parts and strangely endearing. She starts her story with a disclaimer â€“ that this story is a lot of things, but pretty is not one of them. As Lily states â€˜pretty is not and never was my lot\’
The story is recounted from conception to the present day â€“ the conception apparently taking place in the back seat of a Zephyr behind the Esplanade Hotel in St Kilda. She describes her mother as a classical music loving academic and her father a womanising petty criminal. Not a match made in heaven but they tried to make it work.
Lily was born Linda Kathleen, but decided in her twenties (much to her mother\’s dismay) that just plain â€˜Lily\’ worked better for her. So she had it changed. Growing up, she was witness to her parents disintegrating relationship and after the birth of her brother, the third child, her parents split and she moved to the country with her mum. Her mother was by then a teacher and her father went on to remarry several times, and continue with his dodgy dealings.
Lily\’s story continues with her recounting her high school years, attempts at uni, disastrous love affairs and her eventual slide into drug addiction. She speaks about the birth of her son, her relationship with a woman, and stints in rehab and psychiatric facilities after numerous suicide attempts. Although this sounds depressing, it is told with such warmth and humour that you can see the brave woman beneath the story on every page.
Just when things don\’t look like they can get any worse for Lily she has the good fortune to come across an old friend, who is prepared to help out any way she can. And she does. Of course the story ends happily, but it is worth the read â€“ even just for a glance at the hilarious life rules that Lily peppers her story with. And at the end she says â€˜It\’s still not pretty, but it is good and it is true.\’
Available now: Penguin RRP$32.95