Vicky Pryce's Prisonomics book 'lacking in misery and shame'
Mrs Pryce or Mrs Ice? Prison memoirs display a 'surprisingly depersonalised lack of passion'
READERS hoping to find soul-searching and regret in Vicky Pryce's prison memoirs are likely to be disappointed. Following her two-month stint in jail for accepting speeding points on behalf of her ex-husband Chris Huhne, Pryce has published a book called Prisonomics - but critics are complaining that it is "noticeably lacking" in misery and shame.
Pryce devotes two thirds of Prisonomics to her experience in jail and the other third to penal policy. "Neither makes compelling reading," says Theodore Dalrymple in The Times.
She is "not a naturally gifted writer" and her experiences were "unremarkable", says Dalrymple, a psychiatrist and former prison doctor. Pryce was originally sentenced to eight months, but spent just four days at Holloway and two months in an open prison at East Sutton Park, a Grade II listed manor house. Her opinions on penal policy are also "depressingly conventional", he says.
The two halves fit together "uneasily", says Jonathan Aitken in The Observer. The former cabinet minister, who was jailed for perjury and perverting the course of justice 14 years ago, notes that most prison writers - including himself - have "turbulent tales to tell, raw in their own and their fellow inmates' emotions". But Pryce seems to "skate along the surface of even the most difficult moments" with a "surprisingly depersonalised lack of passion" to the point that Aitken wonders whether her name should be "Mrs Ice rather than Mrs Pryce".
She convincingly argues the public spending case for alternatives to prison for women, he adds, but it would have been more effective if Prisonomics had "contained a single paragraph of regret, remorse or repentance for the author's own crime".
Carol Sarler in the Daily Mail agrees. At least with the memoirs of Aitken and Jeffrey Archer, you believe they have seen the inside of a cell or two, she says, but Pryce "apparently had a whale of a time". Pryce laughs with the security guards when they find £1,490 in cash gathering dust in her handbag and insists she was tremendously welcomed by the other prisoners, who she calls "the girls".
"Unfortunately," says Sarler, "all that is really demonstrated is just how far this exasperating woman has flown away with the fairies".
Pryce's memoir is no Ballad of Reading Gaol, says Eleanor Mills in the Sunday Times, and "the misery and shame she must have felt to be incarcerated are noticeably lacking". It is "clunkily written" and "so boring that at one point she eulogises about disinfecting the cereal dispensers". Pryce comes across "as a combination of Lady Bountiful (handing out custard creams, reworking fellow inmates' business plans) and Pollyanna".
What does resonate is her look at the plight of female prisoners, particularly the toll that imprisoning mothers takes on their children, says Mills. "If you are looking for soul-searching or remorse, though, forget it." ·