Life & Culture

Review: Quite By Claudia Winkleman

Don’t expect an autobiography with a traditional trajectory, writes Gaby Wine


LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 10: Claudia Winkleman announces partnership with No7 at No7 Laboratories Skin Clinic on April 10, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)


By Claudia Winkleman

HQ, £16.99

For about nine weeks at the end of last year, I hung out with Claudia Winkleman every Saturday and Sunday night — along with millions of other housebound people. Tiers and lockdowns have made my social life strictly televisual. And, for those weekends at the end of 2020, Strictly — that compelling celebration of various kinds of dance in an acutely competitive atmosphere — really was the word.

Winkleman is the quirky side-kick to Tess Daly, the more straight and wholesome of Strictly’s two presenters. Squinting through that famous fringe of hers (it has its own Instagram account), Winkleman brings spontaneous humour and emotion to the show. She wants to know how the contestants really feel when they are awarded three tens and, at the final, she was visibly choked up when thanking the dancers and the crew. Weekends have been much duller ever since.

But now, Claudia Winkleman has brought out a book, which is both funny and smart. It isn’t a memoir, although there are allusions to her happy childhood. It’s more a peek into the inner workings of its author’s mind as she serves up a delicious smorgasbord of reflections on her 48 years. 

Covering topics as wide-ranging as her love of naps, Titian, and Jackie Collins, to her dislike of picnics, packing, and people who show you photos on their phone, she extols the virtues of heavy eye-liner, wearing black, and, of course, fringes. Her own fringe is so central to the alluring Winkleman brand that many readers (and viewers) would, hoping to emulate it, be rushing to their hairdressers if they weren’t currently closed. 
Thrown into the mix is a chapter on “Squirrel Etiquette”, insisted upon by her eight-year old son. (FYI, you should never throw a nut at a squirrel; just leave it close by so the furry little creature can see it.) This is an author who shows that, if your writing is sharp enough and witty enough, you can get away with ignoring the normal literary rules on structure and even subject matter.

Winkleman is also an author who doesn’t shy away from emotion, particularly in the chapters on parenting. She writes about her obsession with imprinting her kids’ names on everything from the bread-board to the doorstop and how she is dreading her eldest child leaving home, which moved me to tears.

Don’t expect an autobiography with a traditional trajectory, Quite reads like a collection of very funny columns. You don’t need to read it cover-to-cover (although I did). You can dip into it if you need some lighthearted respite from lockdown or any other heavy woes. Skip straight to my favourite laugh-out-loud chapters on skiing — “People are…chucking themselves down steep gradients while standing on some sticks” — school sports days, and her “ideal” restaurant — the one with the menu consisting exclusively of kids’ leftovers.

Describing herself in the opening sentence as “a short, orange woman who occasionally reads out loud on the telly”, Claudia Winkleman seems unable to quite believe her own success. But this book will further it, though its title does her a disservice. It’s much more than “quite” good. To borrow a favourite Winkleman word, it is excellent.

Gaby Wine is a freelance journalist


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