During the 1990s, Take That were the boy band. Sell-out tours, number one singles, adoring fans – they had it all. After they decided to call it a day, everyone expected the career of lead singer and songwriter, Gary Barlow, to go from strength to strength, but this was not to be the case. Finding solace in food, Gary became a virtual recluse, tired of the endless jibes at his expense. A Better Me chronicles the battles with his demons, from his lowest times to the present day where he is happier than ever.
As someone who remembers Take That from the days when they used to tour shops and who still enjoys going to their tours today, I was really looking forward to reading A Better Me. If you are looking for a ‘warts and all’ tale of life in a boy band, then you are going to be sorely disappointed. This is very much Gary’s story – not the story of Take That – and it is one of humour, sadness but, above all, honesty.
As the title suggests, this is about how Gary changed his life for the better, be it through his battles with his weight or his mental health. What comes across throughout the book is how, despite his wealth and his happy family life, he could not find peace within himself, turning to food to fill the void when his solo career did not go how he had hoped. I daresay a lot of people will be nodding as he discusses the numerous diets, some more bizarre than others, that he tried in order to lose weight.
It was fascinating to read his take on the breakdown in his relationship with bandmate Robbie Williams, and he deals with this particular part of his life with brutal honesty. Similarly, he addresses his well-publicised tax avoidance – something I thought may have been omitted.
Gary deals with the well-documented loss of his stillborn child in a sensitive, honest way. I can understand why he had reservations in including this traumatic part of his life, but I feel that he made the correct decision in writing about it. If just one person going through the same thing finds it comforting, then it has been worthwhile.
A Better Me is a brutally honest take on the life of one of the country’s foremost songwriters and is one that I’m sure all Take That fans will love.