The TV adaptation of Simon Doonan’s Beautiful People was one of my favourite shows last year – although adaptation probably isn’t the right word, since the TV show was simply “inspired by” the book and huge changes were made, most notably moving the action to the 1990s. In fact Simon Doonan grew up in the 1950s and ‘60s in Reading, so some of the atmosphere of the original book is understandably different. The basics remain the same though, with Doonan getting his taste for high camp from his mother Betty, who can turn the smallest thing into an EVENT, inviting the family to watch her put her bracelet on or paint her toenails. There’s also a blind aunt who finds it hilarious when she falls into an open grave, and the lobotomised grandmother, Narg.
Beautiful People’s chapters jump backwards and forwards in time so we go from Reading in the ‘60s to London in the ‘70s to LA and New York in the ‘80s, but whatever the time or location it’s fun to see Doonan retain his sense of his own ridiculousness, and deep affection for his bonkers family. When he eventually meets his much younger American boyfriend’s family, he’s only able to really relax when he realises they’re also completely insane. It’s a fun read and if you liked the TV show I can’t see why you shouldn’t like this. It’s also fun to try and guess what anecdotes might find their way into the second series – Jonathan Harvey must be very tempted to try and get the scene with the amorous horse onscreen somehow.