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Just Kids by Patti Smith

Biographical books rarely start better than this: intimate and honest; moving and involving; poetic in rhythm and content.

Chapter one, Monday's Children, whisks the reader off to a childhood environment, studded with meaningful observations and subtle, tantalising indications of what destiny may have in store. The second chapter, Just Kids, proudly and successfully forms the core of the book, centred around that accidental - yet in so many ways unavoidably inevitable - meeting of two artistic minds and souls. Amidst the affection, tenderness and natural coupling is a deep seated respect for each other's talents and ambitions.

However, after diving expectantly into the Hotel Chelsea chapter, I noticed the narrative style had changed, the magic lost. As they gradually drift apart due to work, friends, relationships and circumstances, the book also seems to lose its way, even its sense of purpose. There are glimpses of the earlier magic, but small and fleeting in comparison, little reward in a huge 120 page chapter. There are, of course, many interesting tales to be told and many interesting characters to meet, and it's an important element in understanding the overall story. Yet the altered style and modified voice is more mundane and matter-of-fact, losing its previous beauty and energy. In my imagination it's written at a different time, in a different place and in a different state of mind to the rest of the book.

Happily, the magic reappears in the penultimate chapter, Separate Ways Together, then sparkles magnificently in Holding Hands With God - the final sweet, lyrical chapter awash with tenderness, affection and love. Conclusively demonstrating, when focussed on Patti and Robert, how exceptionally well the prose captures this intensely intimate relationship.

But it's also a book to discover Patti the artist - her drawings, photographs, silk-screens, installations and, of course, poetry - a delightful bonus. Overall this is a simply wonderful book - and an immensely engaging story.

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