Review Archive

‘Wayward Daughter: An Official Biography Of Eliza Carthy

(May 07, 2012)

‘Wayward Daughter: An Official Biography Of Eliza Carthy’ by Sophie Parkes - ISBN: 9780956642073. Published by Soundcheck Books: www.soundcheckbooks.co.uk

From experience, biographies fall broadly into two categories. There are those that immediately attract - they are ‘sparkling, vibrant and Wayward Daughterengaging’. There are also those you have to work at - accurate but ‘dry as miller’s apron’. I’m pleased to tell you that ‘Wayward Daughter: An Official Biography Of Eliza Carthy’ by Sophie Parkes, falls slap bang into the first category. Some readers may not consider it a ‘pick up-and-can’t-put-down’ variety, for me it has an undeniable attraction that draws you into Eliza’s story.

The writing style is personal without being intrusive and analytical without being clinical. Through her writing Sophie engages with the reader as much as she clearly engages with Eliza. Across each chapter Sophie tells her tale objectively and without pulling punches. Along the way she covers Eliza’s personal as well as musical life. Rather than a straight ‘timeline’ progression the chapters explore experiences, people and places. There are anecdotes, harsh realities, delicate insights and ‘behind the scenes’ observations – some that you may guess at and some that will take you by surprise. However, one feeling that comes across throughout is the genuine warmth of both biographer and subject.

Sophie developed her book through conversations with Eliza plus interviews with her close friends, family members, peers and admirers. The interviews are more just comment from individuals plucked from a folk ‘who’s who’ they are people wth genuine contributions to make. Naturally, there are the usual suspects – Martin Carthy, Norma Waterson, Jon Boden, Billy Bragg, Nancy Kerr, John Spiers and many more – each contributing frank and absorbing insights.  Is ‘Wayward Daughter’ a good biography? Indeed it is. Is it recommended reading? Without a doubt. What are you waiting for? Buy it now.

Sophie Parkes plays violin and writes about folk music. She regularly contributes to notable folk publications and web sites including Fiddle On, English Dance and Song, fRoots, R2 and Spiral Earth. ‘Wayward Daughter’ is Sophie's first book.

Reviewer: Tim Carroll

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