From Prison To Palace By Cat Williams

Hilarious biography with a dose of self-help

Cat Williams has led a remarkable life, and her account of it in this book is both entertaining and thought-provoking.

She starts her story from when she was a young child, discovering that her mother had just died from breast cancer. From there we are taken on a chronological journey through her life, through the trials and tribulations of being sent to boarding school—as her father worked abroad—and on to all the trouble she got herself into as a teenager.

Narrowly avoiding prison for a drunken misdemeanor involving a large piece of machinery and a waterway—yes, really—she finally does something with herself and joins the army. The discipline of this seems to help, and before long, much to her own surprise, she’s left the army and joined the police, her nemesis from all her years of juvenile trouble. As a police officer on the streets of London she experiences one of the worst events to happen to that city—the Tube bombings of July 2005. Refusing counselling after this, she retreats further into herself, shutting down all the pain and horror she witnessed.

She moves on to become part of the Queen’s protective detail at Buckingham Palace, and there are some fun anecdotes from that time. However, it becomes clear there is trouble brewing beneath the surface—all the hurt she’s experienced in her life, the losses, the tragedy, have taken a toll. She’s become coldly unemotional, which leads to the end of her relationship with her partner, and eventually to a realization that she has to sort herself out.

That’s where the book really switches from being a biography to a self-help guide. She found a specific way of dealing with her past traumas, and she outlines all that she learnt in the last third of the book, using her own stories and escapades as examples of what can happen and how they should be dealt with if you ever find yourself in a similar position.

I did enjoy the book, but I must confess I found the structure a little difficult to work with. The first third was nothing but biography, and that was funny, and interesting, and very easy to read. Then elements of the self-help aspect started to creep into the middle third, and they were a little disconcerting to begin with, as they seemed out of place, until the final third, which was all self-help, which then made a lot more sense. I think I would have found it an easier read if there was a definite split between the two elements – first half bio, second half self-help.

However, don’t get me wrong – what Williams writes is very good, with an easy style and lots of humor in all the right places. Her life is fascinating, and what she’s moved on to after London is also going to be an interesting read when she does put pen to paper for the promised sequel.