Fast-paced, dialogue-driven and immediate, for me, I am Ella. Buy Me is reading firmly outside my comfort zone, a million miles from my usual fair of half-forgotten, almost-classics and literary mysteries.
Slightly anxious about participating in my first blog tour, I was even more dubious when the book arrived. Its design, shiny cover, unusual format, and open-type face all screamed “this is not for you”, very loudly. So I didn’t embark on reading I am Ella. Buy Me with any expectation of pleasure or reward but rather somewhat fearful that I would hate it. And for the first few pages, I did. There is hardly a pleasant character in the novel, and the lovely Adam and the wise, warm and gentlemanly Wally don’t shine through until later on: I found it hard to warm to characters who measure their self-worth by the length of their car or who thought it acceptable to wash their smalls in the office.
For all these initial misgivings, I am Ella. Buy Me won out as an enjoyable read. It is at times incredibly funny. Crackling dialogue dances off the pages, bringing otherwise half-realised characters sharply into focus with depth and realism. No book has made me laugh so much since reading Isabel Lodasa’s The Battersea Park Road to Enlightenment, albeit in a very different way. And there are some cameo scenes to die for- such as Wally dressing up in Ella clothes and then teaching her to dance, or Ella and Adam in the kitchen scoffing the dessert that Adam’s stuck up girlfriend is planning to serve to the her dinner party guests!
Ella is some ways a Bridget Jones of the 1980s: ambitious, confused, struggling to juggle priorities and overly concerned with cake and the size of her thighs. Having pulled herself up by her bootlaces from a disadvantageous childhood, she’s on a trajectory to nowhere, single with a stalled career, and surrounded by a cast of decidedly obnoxious men out to use and abuse her. Her affection and loyalty to her mother (who the reader never meets) is as touching as her inability to repel manipulation is frustrating. Ella’s story plunges us back into an uncomfortably accurate, albeit stereotypical, aspect of 1980s London. Here’s fashionably shabby Soho throbbing with a young, cut-throat competitive, wannabe generation: a workforce fuelled by sexism, selfishness and alcohol and surrounded in smoke. One of the things I liked most about I am Ella. Buy Me was the reminder it gave that, however much we may still be struggling to achieve equality in the workplace, and in life generally, there really has been a lot of progress since the yuppie days of Thatcher’s London. But I am Ella. Buy Me is click-lit and, true to its genre, it doesn’t dwell on the politics of Ella’s situation but rather remains firmly concerned with personality and relationships. An easy-going, untesting read which, by relating the emotional highs and lows of a love-lorn and love-torn heroine, provides pure entertainment.
About the Author
Advertising copywriter, comedy writer, performer, lecturer – Joan Ellis has been them all. With a full-time job in a top London advertising agency and a new baby, she did what any right-minded woman would’ve done and set up a comedy club. She even appeared on the same bill as Jo Brand. Once.
A career highlight was casting a black and white moggie as Humphrey Bogart for her award-winning cat food commercial. Other great performers who brought her words to life include Penelope Keith and Harry Enfield.
As a lecturer, Joan taught comedian Noel Fielding all he knows about advertising before encouraging him to showcase his creative talents on a wider stage. Working for The Press Association, she tutored Wordsworth’s great-grandson in the art of copywriting: Buy a host of golden daffodils and get a blue one, free!
Suffering from swine flu and sweating like a pig, she moved from London to the Isle of Wight where she lives on cream teas with her beloved husband, daughter and two cats.
‘I am Ella. Buy me.’ is based on Joan’s own experiences in top London advertising agencies
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