READERS of this blog may be interested in reading my recent review of Katharine Birbasingh’s recently-released book, To Miss With Love.
I won’t repeat myself – it’s all plain enough from the review. But to jog your memory, Birbalsingh, a former London deputy head, shot to fame after speaking at Tory party conference.
Here’s her speech. It’s worth watching in its entirety – even if it is slightly disturbing that she seems to enjoy naming, projecting and shaming the children she then taught, and says a few things which rather contradict each other.
The following observances are probably better read AFTER reading my review.
When I logged onto Spinebreakers – the website which published my review (I sit on the editorial board) – to retrieve the link, I was somewhat disturbed I found the line “Katharine Birbalsingh is my hero” in the search results when I searched “To Miss With Love”.
This line came from another review on the site, which features teenagers’ responses to books of all genres and target audiences. The review’s author, Max, whom I have never met, makes some valid points; as you would no doubt take from my piece, I’m not saying the system is perfect.
It’s plain enough from looking at our two reviews side by side to see where we disagree.
And sometimes it’s not a case of simply disagreeing – the arguments made by Birbalsingh, and reiterated by Max, are sometimes fundamentally flawed.
On a slightly different note, back to Max:
So finally I will return to the beginning of my review, why Katharine is a hero. The answer, she dedicates 24 hours a day to her students, she cares for them, parents them and inspires her students.
Here we really have to be careful. Of course, she comes across as dedicated, but really, it’s hard to say for sure. That’s because this book really shouldn’t pass itself off as an autobiography: it’s fictionalised, and half of it could be made up. Anyone thinking about this question should read this Guardian piece by a former colleague, who highlights the conflicting arena of Birbalsingh’s work – her multiple identities, chick-lit paperbacks and exaggerations which could be seen as downright untruths.
Snuffy, the book’s teacher character, is certainly dedicated, but 24 hours dedicated to teaching whilst having two paperbacks on the go? It’s just one of many things which don’t add up.