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Book review The death (possibly) of monogamy and other relationship ruminations

Is Monogamy Dead?
by Rosie Wilby

(Accent Press, £8.99)

 

RARELY has the old adage “Never judge a book by its cover” been more apt.
The title Is Monogamy Dead? nowhere near encapsulates the wide-ranging memoir that comedian Rosie Wilby has written that covers the London gay scene, romantic relationships, friendships, career worries, incestuous flat-shares, being a minor Britpop star and the death of a parent. The chick-lit-style bright colours and fun fonts hide the fact that this is a deeply personal and very honest piece of work and it's sometimes a challenging read for those in a monogamous relationship.

The book begins with Wilby questioning whether the exclusive romantic relationship she is in can meet all of her and her partner’s needs. This leads her to consider polyamory — “the practice of maintaining multiple, consensual, ethical, honestly-declared loving relationships” — and listening to advice given by friends, fellow comedians and experts.
She visits a gay sauna, where she and her friend decide their “safe” word is a discreet belch in the other's ear, and does a stand-up set at a sex party, inadvertently giving the impression that she's into Japanese rope bondage.

Self-deprecating and self-reflective, Wilby is often extremely funny. She recounts being barred from the whole of north London by one spurned lover and feeling “about as maternal as Karen Matthews.” Later, she laments her incompatibility with people who aren’t creative. “They can’t see the problem with having sex to a Keane album as opposed to sophisticated prog-folk like Jonathan Wilson or early John Grant.”

Though she doesn’t come to any concrete conclusions, Wilby helpfully provides a glossary of existing and made-up terms for describing and defining the varied types of relationships many people practice today. So if you want to know what being frubbly means, or ensure that you don’t mix up ghosting (“disappearing without explanation as a way of ending a relationship”) with breadcrumbing (“Leading someone on with flirty texts and calls but with no intention of acting on it”), then this is the book for you.

Echoing the accessibility, lightness and humour of Nick Hornby’s 1990s output and the novels of David Nicholls, Is Monogamy Dead? would certainly make an interesting Christmas present for friends and family.

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