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Romany and Tom: A Memoir

4.16  ·  Rating Details ·  164 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
Longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction 2014

Ben Watt's father was a working-class Glaswegian jazz musician-a politicized left-wing bandleader and composer-whose heyday in the late 1950s took him into the glittering heart of London's West End. His mother, Romany, the daughter of a Methodist parson, was a Shakespearean actress who had triplets in her first ma
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published June 10th 2014 by Bloomsbury USA (first published February 13th 2014)
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May 21, 2015 Nigeyb rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ostensibly a biography about Ben Watt’s parents - the titular Romany and Tom - it is actually about much more: families, relationships, memory, class, depression, alcohol, jazz, journalism, identity and nostalgia.

It’s beautifully written and every bit as compelling as a well written thriller.

I came to this having recently finished reading Bedsit Disco Queen: How I Grew Up and Tried to Be a Pop Star by Ben's wife Tracey Thorn - both books are excellent.

Feb 17, 2014 Paul rated it really liked it
Ben Watt is known as one half of Everything But The Girl, but here he recounts the lives of his parents: jazz composer and musician Tom Watt, and Shakespearean actress, turned mother, turned writer and journalist, Romany. From Ben having to take on the grown-up role as his own parents' health deteriorates, to looking back at their careers, their romance, their drinking, their disappointments and their obvious pride in their son's success it is at times nostalgic and sad without being maudlin or ...more
Jul 02, 2014 Paul rated it it was amazing
Absolutely wonderful and very moving. It resonated so much with my thoughts and feelings about my own parents. A joy to read even in the moments of despair.
Richard Watt
Jul 21, 2015 Richard Watt rated it it was amazing
As I may have mentioned before, I feel a curious affinity with Ben Watt. That doesn't mean that I particularly wanted to read about his parents - the 'biography of my parents' is a curious literary sub-genre in my eyes; the story would have to be particularly compelling to make me pick it up. Indeed, there are writers on my shelves - Roddy Doyle, for example - whose entire output is represented, save for Rory & Ita.


On the eternal drive to Penticton the other week, I listened to a pod
Huw Rhys
Nov 07, 2014 Huw Rhys rated it it was amazing
Musician Ben Watt, best known as being one half of Everything but the Girl, tells the story of his mum, his dad, and his family from his perspective.

This is not an easy read, but extremely rewarding.

His mother, Romany, was an actress who went on to be a magazine columnist, and his father, Tom, was a musician and bandleader. This meticulously researched book takes us through the ups and many downs of their relationship, beset as it was with alcoholism, mental illness and career disappointments. T
Aug 08, 2016 SarahK rated it really liked it
I listened to the audio of this book, narrated by Ben himself. Initially I struggled to persevere - I found it a little slow and found some of the descriptions of places, sounds, smells quite laboured. Gradually however I was pulled in and began to care deeply about Romany, Tom and Ben. Descriptions later in the book about the mental health challenges experienced by several members of the family rang very true and the sometimes unlikeable qualities of Romany and Tom started to make sense in the ...more
Mark Walker
Feb 27, 2016 Mark Walker rated it really liked it
Always engaging. It is about a number of things; a marriage, getting older, trying to understand the past, and coming to terms with the good and bad in others. Ben Watt is a good writer, and his approach of moving between time periods and bringing bits of the story out in a non chronological order really works. The approach makes the book more interesting, but also emphasises that life is composed of fragments and sometimes we need to go back and forth in time to try and make sense of what our ...more
Mark Rudd
Oct 20, 2016 Mark Rudd rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bookish Jen
Mar 02, 2016 Bookish Jen rated it really liked it
There comes a time when we are forced to see our parents as actual human beings, and not just our parents. And we also have to face the fact our parents are getting older and will soon leave us with nothing but memories. Musician, songwriter and author Ben Watt not only experiences both these issues but writes about them in his memoir Romany and Tom.

Without a doubt most music fans have heard of the multi-talented Mr. Watt. Along with his wife, Tracey Thorn, he been at the helm of the pop duo Eve
Mike Clarke
Nov 27, 2014 Mike Clarke rated it liked it
Ben Watt, one half of Everything But The Girl, follows the other half, Tracey Thorn, his personal and professional partner, whose memoir Bedsit Disco Queen was one of last year's better non-fiction bestsellers. And it's a strange and melancholy experience which gives a clue to the source of some of his more deadpan compositions.

The son of big band leader Tommy Watt and showbiz writer Romany Evens whose father had been a media personality in the early days of broadcasting, Watt's upbringing could
Apr 28, 2014 Trish rated it it was amazing
Ben and his wife Tracey are Everything But the Girl, and as well as talented musicians they both write brilliantly.
This is Ben's biography of his parents, and of course his autobiography too.
Romany, his mother, was also a writer who kept scrapbooks and boxes of letters and journals so Ben has lots of material to use. His Dad was a jazz musician, so we can see where his talents come from.
The character portraits are wonderful, and Ben's reactions and interpretations of his parents' behaviour, both
Malcolm Frawley
Mar 22, 2016 Malcolm Frawley rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
Ben Watt was one half of the English pop duo, Everything But The Girl. His wife, Tracey Thorn, was the other. But this isn't a memoir of their lives as musical artists. This is about Watt dealing with his parents, Romany & Tom, as they descend into old age &, eventually, death. While never shying away from the harsh realities it isn't as bleak as that sounds. While his parents' lives - he, a musician; she, an actress & pop culture journalist; both on their 2nd marriages after Romany ...more
May 05, 2015 Shui rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I started reading this book right after having finished Ben's first book "Patient". I was amazed at how his startlingly sharp yet easy writing style could render a difficult subject so fascinating and warming. Here he has done it again, I had no idea his parents had a certain notoriety but even if they hadn't I think the way he writes would have fleshed them out and given them just as much personality and colour as their evidently larger than life relationship gives them. As before it's the ...more
Sep 14, 2014 Julie rated it it was amazing
What a poignant love song this is, to Ben Watts ageing parents In this memoir, musician Ben Watts introduces us to, Romany who starts off as an actress and then becomes a journalist, dashing off to interview Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton abroad, and Tom, her second husband, a jazz band leader who after changing fortunes in music becomes a painter decorator. Fuelled by a fair amount of alcohol, their relationship appears to have its rocky moments with plenty of arguments.

Although it made me
Aug 10, 2015 Jaine rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle
Really enjoyed this book - I was worried it wouldn't live up to my memories of Patient but it was definitely as good.

Part of me wishes I had read it as a physical book, not on my kindle, as there were a lot of times when I wanted to flick back and check up on earlier chapters, and I always find that easier in an "actual" book. But I really enjoyed the way it was written, going backwards and forwards between his parents youth and their dotage, as he tied it all together very well.

My only complai
Apr 26, 2014 Lyn rated it really liked it
Private & Thought Provoking
This is a very private story. One filled with despair, alcoholism and loneliness. It is very accurate in describing the times of the 60s and the life of stars. The glimmer of hope is how hard the author tries over and over to be the son his parents want not just the one they need. Mr. Watt’s perseverance in not simply walking away from these two selfish individuals is testimony to the kind soul that he is – and yet, you almost want to tell him RUN! The book is abo
It was fascinating to read this memoir by Ben Watt coming soon after a memoir by his wife Tracey Thorn.... and a very long time after his superb book Patient about his experience of a rare life-threatening complication of asthma. They really do both write so well, movingly, insightfully but unsentimentally... like their music.

I felt he had something new to say about parents aging and our understanding of our own parents' lives when they were 'in their prime' before we were born or before we were
Sep 19, 2015 Sarah rated it really liked it
Written with patience and honesty everyone with elderly parents will recognise some of this book, but his parents were in their own right fascinating people
Ian Webster
Nov 10, 2013 Ian Webster rated it it was amazing
Brave, Moving & Funny. I had to stop reading several times as all my own memories collided with Ben's.
Andrea Tipping
May 07, 2015 Andrea Tipping rated it it was amazing
This was such a beautifully written book I was sorry when it ended. Ben Watts describes his parents so well and there were several points where I was close to tears.
Sarah Parker
Sarah Parker rated it it was amazing
Sep 27, 2016
Erika rated it really liked it
Jun 04, 2014
GARETH KAY rated it really liked it
Dec 27, 2015
Neil Taylor
Neil Taylor rated it liked it
Jul 30, 2015
Marie Davis
Marie Davis rated it really liked it
Feb 27, 2015
Gordon Cameron
Gordon Cameron rated it it was amazing
Jul 21, 2014
Rodney Farrant
Rodney Farrant rated it it was amazing
Nov 22, 2014
Jan 06, 2016 Sue rated it it was amazing
I loved this - honest and beautifully written.
Mark Adams
Mark Adams rated it really liked it
May 25, 2014
Michael Forbes
Michael Forbes rated it it was amazing
Oct 09, 2014
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