Books & Literature

Book Review: How to Survive Family Holidays, by Jack Whitehall with Hilary and Michael Whitehall

NON-FICTION: One part Lonely Planet, one part tell-all family memoir, this is the definitive and hilarious guide on how to survive your family holiday, by Jack Whitehall, with a little bit of help from Michael and Hilary Whitehall.

A laugh-out-loud guide to holidaying as told by the always funny Jack Whitehall and his slightly crazy parents.

Many will already know and love the very personable English comedian, actor and television star Jack Whitehall. As well as touring the world telling us hilarious anecdotes, mostly about his life and family, Jack and his father Michael have a very successful Netflix show called Travels with my Father.  In this book, Jack joins together with his father and mother (Hilary) to regale us with family anecdotes. As it says in the blurb, it is part memoir of family life, part travel guide, and full on, laugh-out-loud funny.

Jack was brought up in a very upper-class English home. Together with his father, a leading theatrical agent, and mother, an actress, they have always had a very close bond.  They are able to laugh at each other, mocking each other’s and their own idiosyncrasies and foibles. They are endearing and very funny.

Jack Whitehall is loveable and seemingly a bit bumbly.  But don’t let this fool you. He is very clever with words. He is able to build a perfect picture using this skill, enabling the reader to laugh along with his family antics.  He writes as he speaks. Little asides, extra thoughts … it feels like a window into a very interesting brain that has no filters. Which makes it all the more amusing.

This book is by no means an easy read, despite being extremely funny. It is quite wordy and cerebral, but always witty: “My mother can tetrisise a suitcase with a tactical skill that defies the laws of physics.” The reader will need to sit down somewhere quiet to absorb his clever use of the English language.

How to Survive Family Holidays is divided into sections, beginning with Preparation, Packing and Passports to Cultural Etiquette and finally ending with Christmas because “this is the family holiday that consumes us more than any other.” In each section, Jack takes the lead by explaining how things work, the obvious pitfalls and other very important hints to survive. His father Michael has his input by regaling us with anecdotes and his take on a particular holiday. Hilary is the voice of reason, giving us her top 10 do’s and don’ts, why a fanny pack is useful, and other important information. Michael has a very dry sense of humour and comes across as very self-indulged. This is part of his charm.

Family photos from various holidays over many years have been included in two sections of the book. Their beloved adopted child Winston (actually a doll, but don’t tell them that!) joins the family on most of their recent holidays.

For those Australian readers, there is a tiny section on Australian etiquette. For example: “I think the only way you could insult an Australian is by turning up to a gathering empty handed.” Probably very true!

How to Survive Family Holidays is a funny, almost useful book which will make most of our family holidays seem normal.

Reviewed by Sue Mauger

Distributed by: Hachette Australia
Released: October 2021
RRP: $32.99

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not Glam Adelaide.

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