I’m very late to the party with this one – but if Gloria likes to make an entrance, then so do I. I’ve seen review after review of Reality Rehab by Lisa Mary London, every one more enthusiastic than the one before, so (with thanks to Lisa for providing my reading e-copy) I really had to read it – although I’ll confess to being just a little worried that it might not be entirely “me”…
Faded TV star Gloria Grayson has hit rock bottom. Sacked from her starring role in a top soap, divorced from hell-raising actor ‘Mad’ Tommy Mack, and obese from binge eating, her days as Britain’s sexiest blonde are well and truly over.
But her luck changes when cruel paparazzi photos relaunch her career, and she and her fat, feisty dog are booked to appear on TV’s Reality Rehab.
Gloria is incarcerated with an American psychotherapist, a rabble of D-list celebrities and umpteen cameras, then put on a starvation diet. But worse is to come, with the shock arrival of her alcoholic ex-husband.
Tears and tantrums ensue as the divorced couple’s therapy sessions take over the show, and ratings soar. The other celebrities are infuriated to be sidelined and Reality Rehab fast becomes The Tommy and Glo Show.
But Gloria and Tommy are hiding explosive secrets from each other and 10 million viewers – Reality is stranger than fiction!
Despite my sober and serious exterior (who’s laughing?!), I’ll confess that I can actually be a little bit of a celebrity junkie – I really enjoy any of the TV celebrity reality shows, have a reasonable knowledge of the Z-list, and love a bit of juicy gossip (doesn’t everyone?). For a celebrity fan, one of the many joys of this book is actually in trying to work out who each over-the-top character might be based on. But even if you’re not a fan or follower of the reality TV world, you’ll find so much in this book that you’ll love.
I’m actually a little bit in love with Gloria – I adored her from the very beginning, heard her “voice” so clearly, sympathised with her over-sized hell, laughed out loud at some of her wonderful asides and observations, and really felt for her every time the pace slowed and things got a little more serious. And, do you know, I think I might be a little in love with Tommy too… what a magnificent character, part monster, part naughty little boy.
The writing is razor sharp – little jabs at celebrities everyone knows well, comments that only a real insider could make, situations that are as real as they are ridiculously over-the-top. Not everyone can find the same things funny – and deliberate comedy isn’t something that always works for me – but I really do defy anyone to read this book and not laugh out loud, and definitely more than once. In some cases, what set me off were the little things – the odd throwaway comment that catches you on the back foot and gasping, those wonderful reader comments that follow every social media post.
But I also totally adored the bigger picture, the world this book creates that you can visualise so clearly, and the fact that you feel that you’re right in the middle of it all, watching the story play out around you. Every single character, however peripheral, is real – in as much as media people and celebrities can ever be “real” – and their interactions, motivations, plotting and double-crossing are just a wonderful thing to watch. And I’m not a doggy person at all, but the little star in this book is just so perfectly drawn – someone please give her a sausage!
This book is so far outside my reading comfort zone, and I never thought for one moment that my review would be so totally without criticism. But I thoroughly enjoyed every single wonderful moment – more, Lisa, please!
About the author
Lisa Mary London went from Chief Reporter on a sleepy Cotswold newspaper to become Celebrity Producer on some of Britain’s best-loved TV shows. Her TV credits include An Audience with Ken Dodd, A BAFTA Tribute to Julie Walters, The British Comedy Awards and I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! She’s worked with stars from Sir Billy Connolly to Ant and Dec, and her debut novel Reality Rehab features around 200 famous names.
‘There’s never a dull moment when you’re working with the stars’, says Lisa. ‘One minute you’re sipping champagne with Pierce Brosnan, the next you’re standing in the Ladies’ minding Barbara Windsor’s handbag.’
Reality Rehab is based on her real life, behind-the-screen experiences as a Celebrity Producer. ‘I’ve met many old school stars like my book’s protagonist Gloria Grayson, who curse reality TV and think the cast of TOWIE should be stacking shelves at Tesco, not walking the red carpet.
‘She’s a cross between Diana Dors, Boadicea and Miss Piggy, a glorious, garrulous anti-heroine with bags of fattitude – Gloria puts the real in reality TV!’
A journalist by profession, Lisa has written for the Daily Mail and was briefly a News of the World reporter, but made her excuses and left before anyone was imprisoned for phone hacking.
Gloria Grayson’s petulant pooch Baby-Girl is closely based on the book’s cover star, Lisa’s beloved Maltese Dolly-Dog (says Lisa – ‘You couldn’t make her up’). Dolly-Dog won fame on ITV’s Loose Women when she married Sherrie Hewson’s Westie Charlie, in a ceremony officiated by John Barrowman (available on YouTube). The couple split acrimoniously and are currently fighting for custody of a chew toy.