When Constance Briscoe wrote the first instalment of her autobiography and number one bestseller “Ugly” in 2006 she told a tragic, yet remarkable tale of her childhood abuse at the hands of her mother. This sequel to that story “Beyond Ugly” takes us from where the first left off and explores with her, her time studying law at Newcastle University and thereafter her early years at the Bar under the pupillage of Michael Mansfield QC. What is so inspirational about this story is Constance’s work ethic and dedication. Both at University and at the Bar she takes on several jobs at weekends and during the holidays, including working with the terminally ill in a hospice to subsidise her ambitions. She saves both from work and her student grant so that undertake cosmetic surgery treatments, not as a modern day indulgence but to at least physically deal with her mother’s abusive chants that her daughter is “ugly”.
But these criticisms should not in any way detract from this warm, compelling read. The book particularly comes to life, not as a tragedy but as a solid expose of life at the Bar and her attempts to find acceptance as a young ambitious black woman within a rather stayed profession. This book is at its best when we see the struggles that a pupil has in any high profile chambers; being turned down for any form of financial subsidence and Constance’s struggle with other barristers within the civil rights chambers at Tooks Court in her fight for tenancy. On being turned down for tenancy Constance astonishes both chambers and the reader by writing to each and every single member of chambers asking for their reasons for her rejection. I would be surprised if many pupils these days were politically brave enough to take such a position. Constance not only takes the position but almost revels in the dispute (which must have been particularly trying at the time) with chambers and her fight for justice and understanding. A delightful read.