I think autobiography, or memoir, must be the hardest of genres to get right. There’s more emotion to wrestle with, temptation to settle scores, personal tragedies to share or not share. There is also the question of what order to tell your life in. The obvious choice is to go in chronological order. But, oh, that can be a plod. No one’s life is that consistently compelling. And if it is I can’t imagine you’re in any fit state to write it down. But jump around the timeline too much and it gets confusing. When comedian David Mitchell wrote his life story, he used the device of his new walking regime to alleviate his back pain (hence Back Story, geddit?). Perhaps inspired by Sesame Street Stephen Fry brought his story to you by the letter C. In Delicacy, actor and comedian (and 2003 Funny Women Awards finalist) Katy Wix has charted 21 memories using cake, and I devoured it.
Cut up into pieces, large and small, some chapters are a page but all are memories associated with cake. This is the first memoir I have read by a fellow millennial woman, perhaps this is why I found Delicacy so evocative. Recalling her tween and teen years Wix perfectly encapsulates what happens to the young female body, the seething resentment and flattery felt when the male gaze falls upon it for the first time and how you at once hope to become perfectly womanly and yet also a brain in a jar.
Without ever coming across as bitter, Wix is not afraid to share the unfairness she has encountered, because life isn’t fair. The arbitrariness and numbness of depression, sometimes with a reason, sometimes without. How grief is oddly cumulative and becomes one of the many misfortunes we all have to grow to live with. This is not to say Delicacy is a misery memoir, there are some brilliant flashes of wit scattered throughout this book, tart observations and wry takes.
The writing is beautifully poetic but never pretentious. Wix is in complete control and only gives you what she consents to. Disordered eating is mentioned but not greatly detailed even though it threads through the entire book. Perhaps because this can be very triggering, perhaps because it’s none of my business.
Delicacy neatly demonstrates how cake, always sold to us as a treat, is actually a strange marker of life events. Birthday cake, cake at a wedding, cake at a wake. Cake to celebrate, cake to comfort. How for women cake is so often presented as an illicit treat, an indulgence you’ll pay for, ‘oh, I shouldn’t’, but when it comes to Katy Wix’s Delicacy you absolutely must.
Katy Wix: Delicacy is published by Headline on 15th April, pre-order your copy here!