I’ve been an avid follower of Amy Jones’ Tiny Letter, Jimsy Jampots, for quite a while now. I like her honesty, her chatty style and her very down-to-earth sense of humour, as well as the numerous links to whatever happens to be amusing on the Internet that week. Her newsletters have understandably petered out a little due to the birth of her son six months ago, so imagine my delight when I realised the Library had a copy of her new book, The To-Do List and Other Debacles, and I could take it home right then that second!
Summary of The To-Do List and Other Debacles:
How not to be good? Let me list the ways…
Are you a woman? Do you make to-do lists to stop you losing your mind? Have you ever cried in the toilets at work, had a meltdown in the supermarket, or gone off the rails at a hen party? And have you ever been saved from any of the above by your truly brilliant friends?
If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then this is the book for you. A moving, funny and brutally honest memoir of one woman’s millennial misadventures, The To-Do List and Other Debacles follows Amy Jones on her journeys through friendship, marriage and mental health disasters in a story that’s as relatable as it is riotous.
Star Rating for The To-Do List and Other Debacles: * * * * 1/2 (four and a half stars)
The To-Do List is more or less about Amy Jones’ struggles with her mental health – sometimes up, sometimes down, but always relatable. This is illustrated with the use of illustrated to-do lists – first her intended goals, and then followed by what she actually managed to achieve. Amy uses these to manage her day and her emotions, to variable effect. Whilst I felt these did become slightly repetitive, they were unique and managed to break up the prose in a whimsical manner.
For a memoir-style book about mental health, The To-Do List is hilarious. Not the to-do lists themselves, but the self-deprecating, informal way in which Amy Jones writes. I genuinely giggled out loud to myself on multiple occasions. On looking back at my list of quotes, however, it turns out that I didn’t write down a single, funny one. You’re just going to have to trust that this book is just as amusing as I say it is.
The reason for that is, as much as I loved the humour, it wasn’t the main reason for the high rating. It was because of how much I damn well related to this book. I’ve suffered with depression and anxiety for most of my adult life, as have a large portion of us. What makes this so interesting, is that Amy Jones refers to a lot of thought patterns and niggling doubts that I also feel, and which I hadn’t clicked were a symptom. Honestly, at times, it was like she peered into my head and scrawled down exactly how I have felt. The detail and the nuance she has captured when recording these episodes is impressive, and I simply cannot imagine how she got it all down during a period when she wasn’t currently feeling all that. It’s astounding.
I don’t remember how long it took for me to fall asleep. But I do remember listening to his sleep and letting impotent rage churn in my chest. Rage at him for snoring, rage at myself for listening to it rather than disturb him, rage at how the day had gone. (…) I listened to Garry’s snoring and the jittery, uncomfortable energy racing through my blood. I felt sad, and heavy, and desperate.
And, as I lay there in the dark, I listened to the voice in the depths of my brain which explained, patiently, how I was fundamentally wrong…. The problem must be me, it whispered. I am ruining everything. My crappy life is my own damn fault, and I’m trapped in it. I’m going to keep fucking things up for myself and for the people I love most forever, and there’s nothing I can do to change it. It was this thought that held me in its arms and rocked me to sleep, and this thought which chased itself round my dreams all night. The problem is me. The problem is me.
My one criticism was the ending. It’s difficult and probably a bit unfair to complain about the ending of a memoir, when it’s perfectly feasible that maybe everything did just sort itself out like that. The To-Do List just ends a bit too… nicely. She has all these revelations about her friends, her appearance and her job, and just… feels better. This is after some NHS counselling sessions and she just say that she expects her struggles will come back, but she hopes that she now has the tools to be able to deal with it more effectively. And I hope she does. But it felt unrealistic and unhelpful. I realise it’s not a self-help book or anything like that, but the ending was just very sudden.
I really did love The To-Do List and Other Debacles. I’ll definitely be purchasing a copy as well as following any other books that Amy Jones writes – which I hope she does. For an interesting, hilarious, relatable foray into mental health, I really can’t recommend this highly enough.
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