Diana Rose

  • A Nice Girl like Me: A Story of the Seventies by Rosie Boycott
    Chatto, 250 pp, £8.95, April 1984, ISBN 0 7011 2665 5

On her fourth day in a London alcoholic clinic Rosie Boycott’s doctor suggested that she should write the story of her life. Her book is an expanded version of that exercise: a memoir of her life between the ages of 12 and 31, between her arrival at Cheltenham Ladies’ College in 1963 and her renunciation of alcohol in 1982. We learn very little of the tastes or opinions of the character who is meant to hold the book together. What we do learn is that Rosie is eager to please, easily impressed and unsure of herself. She plies us with bits of gossip which she thinks we would like. She tells us tales of knicker-checks, tampax lessons, crushes and lesbian teachers at Cheltenham. She walks along the ‘fashionable terraces of Eaton Square’ and enters ‘one of London’s more fashionable mental homes’. We hear of the Harley Street shrink who probes ‘at great expense’ into her reasons for drinking, suggests that she should have more orgasms, and asks whether she saw her father in the bath when she was a baby. When she gives a party in London ‘the champagne flowed and smoked salmon was served up by neatly attired waitresses.’ When she goes to Colorado, in 1975, she makes sure we know that it is the poets, Ginsburg, Burroughs, Corso and Anne Waldman, who give the smartest parties. She tells us twice that ‘aboard an almost empty 747 home from New York I joined the mile-high club’ – presumably made up of those who, having already seen the in-flight movie, make love in planes. The press parties which she attends in London are ‘unrivalled in their lavishness and cost’. At the end of the book Rosie admits that she found the chapter on Cheltenham ‘glib’. She visits an old school-friend who reminds her of many things which she had forgotten: that Rosie had been disliked, thought stupid, suspected of stealing and victimised in petty ways. Her nickname, ‘Oozy’, had not just come from the similarity with ‘Rosie’: she was ‘oozy’ – obsequious. No wonder Rosie prefers to remember the trivia.

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