Tracey Thorn in 1990 ©EMPICS

Tracey Thorn's homage to suburban adolescence

The Everything But the Girl singer's comic take on the clothes she didn't wear and the boys she never went out with
January 28, 2019

Tracey Thorn, the singer-songwriter and one half of the band Everything But the Girl, now feels like she lives a conventional middle-class life in north London, with her three children and partner of over 30 years. Even this apparently settled life doesn’t stop her father commenting: “Oh, Tracey. She’s from another planet.” We shouldn’t be surprised. After reading Thorn’s first memoir Bedsit Disco Queen, he said “I never knew Tracey was so into music”—this about a woman who has sold over nine million records.

Another Planet, Thorn’s second memoir, is full of such moments of low-key comedy but there is also a serious side to the estrangement that she felt from her parents. She is candid about how the “distance that had grown up between me and my parents in my teens never quite closed up.”

She is honest too about a suburban adolescence defined by what didn’t happen to her: the clothes she couldn’t afford to buy, the boys she wasn’t allowed to go out with and the sense of nothing going on. Thorn approvingly quotes John Updike’s line about giving “the mundane its beautiful due”—and she does exactly that here. Occasionally, there is a lack of narrative propulsion but she manages to keep you interested.

It helps that her teenage diary entries are full of Victoria Wood-esque charm: “Sunday—Did housework in morning and got 65p. Had roast lamb for din dins. Ordered a waistcoat from Freemans. Also a floor cushion. Saw M*A*S*H. Bed at 9.30.”

Thorn is also revealing about how much even a diary conceals. She adds contemporary comments below the lines of her adolescent writing, explaining that she really did mind that X or Y had ignored her even when she claimed at the time that she didn’t. She tells us there is a blank page in her diary which she won’t, even after several decades, explain the meaning of. But it’s important we know it’s there and to understand how much memoir writing is about control.

Another Planet: A Teenager in Suburbia by Tracey Thorn (Canongate, £14.99)