Wear and Tear: The Threads of My Life by Tracy Tynan – Review
By Sarah Morgan
You get the impression that being the offspring of famous parents isn’t easy. People have preconceived notions of you, you may be expected to live up to their achievements, and your parents may even think you should consider following in their footsteps.
Tracy Tynan, however, seems to have suffered for a very different reason.
She’s the daughter of American novelist Elaine Dundy and renowned British critic Kenneth Tynan. In the 1950s they were a showbiz couple, befriending celebrities left, right and centre, and partying until dawn whenever possible – if Tracy’s memoir is anything to go by, if they weren’t invited somewhere, they deemed the day an entire failure.
As a result, Tracy seems to have been an afterthought in their lives. She didn’t get in the way because they were too busy doing whatever their own hearts desired.
You might expect, then, for her warts-and-all memoir to be full of bitter barbs directed at her parents, but that’s not the case. Instead, she delivers very honest prose about the lack of a bond, particularly with her mother, and reveals how, against the odds, she managed to build a loving family of her own that includes two children, a stepson and half-siblings from her father’s second marriage.
“Stylish turn of phrase”
It’s a cliché to suggest that she’s a survivor – and you get the impression that Tracy would scoff at anything sounding so self-indulgent – but she’s certainly a person to be admired.
As someone who is slightly obsessed with the London of the 1950s and 1960s, I’d imagined that I’d be transfixed by her stories of the city’s nightlife back then, or at least how she rubbed shoulders with the great and good of its theatreland.
However, to my surprise, it’s what came next, as she reached adulthood and strode out into the world alone without parental support to make her own way, eventually carving a career as a movie costume designer, that proved to be the most fascinating aspect of her story.
Each chapter is headed by an item of clothing that played an important part in an aspect of her life, and while Tynan doesn’t seem to have inherited much from her parents, she does have their stylish turn of phrase.
Every anecdote is a gem, and while she doesn’t expect sympathy or applause for surviving with little help from the two people who should have supported her the most, she certainly deserves them.
My only criticism is the lack of photographs – it would have been great to be able to put faces to the many non-famous names she mentions.
‘Wear and Tear: The Threads of My Life’ by Tracy Tynan is published by Duckworth Overlook, paperback £9.99