Never having had a big sister, I can only imagine that if I had one, she would be just like India Knight.

‘In Your Prime,’ India’s latest book, is full of the type of advice a big sister would cheerfully give you, sitting in your kitchen over a big glass of wine once the kids have gone to bed, at the same time as not minding lending you her best handbag.  Your big sister has gone through it all ahead of you and can point you in exactly the right direction; you don’t have to take her advice, but it’s there if you want it.

This is exactly the effect of ‘In Your Prime.’  Take make up or fake tan, say.  India tells us from experience which brands can be relied on so we don’t have to spend time and money trying to work it out for ourselves if we don’t want to.  She is clear that we must in future years avoid dressing like ‘Hampstead Lady.’  Thank goodness someone has said it, and more to the point, tells us how to avoid that humiliating fate.  How to cull bad friends and make new ones.  How to deal with teenagers.  Who wouldn’t want some friendly advice about that?

Judgemental when you need her to be – don’t question, just follow her rules on how to avoid mutton, for example: ‘Over-cleavage….Excusable in an adolescent, problematic in yer actual nan,’ she warns; but on your side when it comes to the nitty-gritty: if taking up with a younger man in the face of everyone else’s sniggering, for instance, ‘Sod other people,’ is India’s advice.

And being the ideal big sister, of course India knows how to be funny in her wisdom.  Try this:

“Drink, but know enough about yourself to recognise when ‘This is so much fun’ turns into ‘I feel like doing sexy dancing by myself now’ and then ‘Oops I seem to have fallen over’.  In later years, that last one can segue into “Oh.  I can’t get up.’”

Included are less welcome subjects that might accompany one’s prime, that we may not want or choose to consider in advance, but which can’t be avoided when they do happen: there’s a whole chapter on the menopause and another on ailing parents, ready to be consulted as and when.

Maybe you’ll never need a nudge the right direction; maybe you will remain undaunted by the challenges of entering and passing through your prime.  But just in case you do find you need it, “In Your Prime’ is a big sister for your bookshelf; it can’t lend you a handbag, but what it can do is worth so much more.

© Joanna Reeves, all rights reserved.


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