Book review: The Full Catastrophe

True stories of when life was so bad it was funny.


In this hilarious and moving collection, well-known Australians share their stories of major stuff-ups, minor catastrophes and horrific humiliations. From Annabel Crabb’s tale of Russian interference in the birth of her first child to Bernard Salt’s infamous smashed avocado social media maelstrom, these entertaining tales of woe remind us that this too shall pass.

Our review:

We’ve all had days when if we didn’t laugh, we’d cry. Days where nothing seems to go right, no matter how organised, successful or put-together you may otherwise appear. 

Based on the podcast of the same name, The Full Catastrophe is a tongue-in-cheek chronicle of “stuff-ups, cock-ups and calamities” experienced by well-known Australians.

The tales have been collated by social researcher Rebecca Huntley and ABC Radio presenter Sarah MacDonald, whose own full catastrophe was the inspiration for the book.

While existing in a “black hole of despair” after the death of her beloved dad, Macdonald was caring for her mother who was hospitalised with a serious illness when she came down with the worst flu she’d ever experienced, complete with an off-the-scale fever and hallucinations… all while the kids got nits, her dog made himself sick from stress and her husband was overseas. Lonely, exhausted, sad, stricken with grief and covered in vomit and poo, Macdonald realised that “sometimes you just have to roll in the deep, deep doo-doo that is life.”

I read 75% of this book in one Friday night and I would have finished it if I hadn’t fallen asleep on the couch in the early hours of the morning. The first thing I did when I got up the next day was pour myself a large cup of coffee and settle in on the couch to devour the remaining tales of woe.

It’s not that I enjoyed reading about the most vulnerable and humiliation moments of peoples’ lives (however vividly and hilariously they’re described), as much that I was fascinated by peeking beneath the veneer of success to relatable and sometimes painful courage and resilience displayed by the authors.

Anyone that says they haven't experienced a full catastrophe is lying and we can learn a lot from how others recover from the lowest points in their lives. It’s important to be reminded that, no matter how disastrous your full catastrophe may feel, this too shall pass. 

Final verdict: 5/5


Rebecca Huntley and Sarah Macdonald.

If you liked this book, try:

Welcome to story club by Ben Jenkins and Zoe Norton Lodge, The Moth by Catherine Burns.