The only things I was really expecting from Sue Johnston's autobiography were that it would be funny in parts, have some insights into the TV worlds of Brookie, The Royales, being Grace in Waking the Dead and from the title `Things I Couldn't Tell My Mother' I hazarded a guess that either Sue had some skeletons in her cupboard or her relationship with her mother might be a fraught one. Indeed it is the latter and really if I was to say Sue's book is about anything then it would really be about the difficult relationship they shared. This was much more interesting than any gossip of any TV set could have in store.
There are of course the tales of the television work that Sue has done, and I will admit I wanted a little more than the snippets we got, but there is a huge amount of stuff in store for anyone picking up this book, and I don't just mean the stories of her mother. Sue struggled to find what she wanted to do after her childhood, which sounded wonderful, and after a stint at the Tax Office she found herself hanging out at The Cavern in Liverpool with The Beatles and working for Brian Epstein's company where she discovered `The Hippy Hippy Shake'. We look at her two marriages, being a single working mother (and the struggles that could bring) as well as her political involvement with the Labour Party and how she protested and rallied for the miners and gay rights. Sue Johnston is a woman with a lot more going on than just being a wonderful actress who has become a national treasure.
The heart of Sue's thoughts and memories are really those of her mother though. A woman who whilst making her only child have a good, happy, secure childhood could never show her affection or full approval and it's this which really comes to life in the pages and almost haunts the book with its echoes throughout. What Sue Johnston doesn't do is make all this maudlin, yes there is some regret and anger on occasion, on the whole where possible you do feel Sue is looking at life with a glass half full attitude, there is a certain wryness here amongst the serious stuff.
I was a fan of Sue Johnston before I read `Things I Couldn't Tell My Mother', I am even more of a fan now that I have finished the book. I loved the books honesty and clarity I think the only thing is that I would have liked more of it. I felt like there was so much that Sue had to say, and so many other interesting stories in the background, it almost didn't all fit in the book and could have gone on much longer, I could easily have read another few hundred pages. Read `Things I Couldn't Tell My Mother' it's a great memoir from one of Britain's best loved, and most down to earth, actors (I nearly said actresses there, that wouldn't do) and don't be surprised if you find yourself shedding a few tears along the way, there's much laughter too.