Caitlin Moran – How To Build A Girl Tour

Let’s just say, I have been looking forward to this date for a while. Why, I hear you ask? Well. I have just returned from an unforgettable evening at Union Chapel for the final stop of Caitlin Moran‘s tour celebrating the publication of How to Build a Girl. With the London shows sold out in mere minutes, it was clear I was not going to be the only Caitlin-crazy person attending and much to my delight, that audience did not disappoint. Surrounded by a crowd of 863 women (and the odd gent, 57 to be precise) practically generating a new form of excitable electricity, I awaited Caitlin’s arrival.


Let’s put this in perspective. Remember my post about the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction awards evening? You know, the one where I chased Caitlin to tell her that I loved her and that I was a feminist? Yes. I am that fan girl who starts squealing like an excitable guinea pig at the mere sight of her. So the fact that I enjoyed en entire evening watching this brilliant woman’s gig and was able to get involved wholeheartedly meant I definitely experienced one of this year’s highlights. Thank you so much to Polly at PRH for arranging this – I hope this post demonstrates my gratitude.


So what’s the big deal? Well, this is what the book’s about:

What do you do in your teenage years when you realise what your parents taught you wasn’t enough? You must go out and find books and poetry and pop songs and bad heroes – and build yourself.

It’s 1990. Johanna Morrigan, 14, has shamed herself so badly on local TV that she decides that there’s no point in being Johanna anymore and reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde – fast-talking, hard-drinking Gothic hero and full-time Lady Sex Adventurer! She will save her poverty stricken Bohemian family by becoming a writer – like Jo in Little Women, or  the Brontes – but without the dying young bit. By 16, she’s smoking cigarettes, getting drunk and working for a music paper. She’s writing pornographic letters to rock-stars, having all  the kinds of sex with all the kinds of men, and eviscerating bands in reviews of 600 words or less. But what happens when Johanna realises she’s built Dolly with a fatal flaw? Is a box full of records, a wall full of posters and a head full of paperbacks, enough to build a girl after all?

Imagine The Bell Jar written by Rizzo from Grease, with a soundtrack by My Bloody Valentine and Happy Mondays. As beautiful as it is funny, How To Build a Girl is a brilliant coming-of-age novel in DMs and ripped tights, that captures perfectly the terror and joy of trying to discover exactly who it is you are going to be.
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Sounds great, right? To tell the truth, I have only just started reading it (this blogging/publishing job malarky seriously leaves you with little time – it is next to be completed…) BUT from what I have read along with a few extracts, including this one, and having heard Caitlin read from it this evening, it looks and sounds flipping hilarious.  It has been described as an extended version of the childhood section in Caitlin’s semi-autobiographical How to Be a Woman which if you haven’t read – go out and get it right now. Buy it, borrow it, get it from a library, I don’t care, just get it and prepare to guffaw (probably in public places).
It is a BRILLIANT book and will make you do things like stand on your chair yelling ‘I am a feminist!‘ out the window to innocent passers-by or, if you happen to bump into Caitlin Moran, maybe you’ll follow my lead and turn into a crazed fan and run after her. Who knows? All that’s for sure is that the book is all that a book should be – entertaining, informative and one that will get you thinking and debating. NICE ONE. But to get back on track. Even if How to Build a Girl does read as a fictionalised version of Caitlin’s own childhood – is that such a bad thing? When it’s delivered in typical Caitlin style making me crack up at every page, I’m not complaining. Watch this space – once I’ve read it, I’ll get a review up right away.
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As for the rest of the evening. Sometimes there are just no words. I won’t be able to do it justice. Caitlin Moran has the magic presence that so many desire. She walks onto the stage and people love her. She is a force to be reckoned with – a woman who knows what she wants in life (mainly having found out what she doesn’t want… read How to Be a Woman and you’ll understand) and who taps into the mindset of women across the world, calling out injustices, laying them on the table and showing women that they can do the same. This tour wasn’t simply a book tour, it was an empowering call to arms. Literally. Arms flew in the air as we all stood on our benches yelling ‘I AM A FEMINIST!’ Great moment.
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Courtesy of @caitlinmoran
I think the best I can do is to give you some highlights from the night:
  • Calling the Union Chapel a ‘womenatorium
  • Periods – still surprise you like the Spanish Inquisition no matter how old you are
  • 3 most important things in a girl’s life: Long country walks; masturbation; revolution
  • Feminism: the only word that makes women equal to men
  • Feminism is a set of tools not a set of rules!‘ (loud cheers)
  • The power of culture makes a quicker and more effective difference than any piece of legislation
  • Posthumous letter to her daughters
  • Reading from How to Build a Girl complete with actions
  • ‘9/10 times you’re not having a full-on nervous breakdown – you just need a cup of tea and a biscuit’
  • Get a big biscuit tin
  • Je ne regrette brieor never regret cheese
  • Mooncups in general
  • Caitlin once again gracefully accepting my uninvited presence – this time I sneaked to the stage door where she was prepping for the hundreds of signatures ahead, and got her to sign my book so I could catch my train. I love her.
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I’m still buzzing.

Caitlin Moran, you’re amazing.

One day, we’ll be friends and share 10 hours in a hotel room somewhere bonding like you and Courtney Love.

Until then, I’ll reflect that this happened and smile.


Top night. 

– Franny

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