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on 28 October 2004
I have bought many books over the years from Amazon but this is the first one that has compelled me to write a review. I found this book impossible to put down - tears several times. I have been a fan of John Thaw particularly from Morse and it was very interesting to read what the man was really like. Touching biography of both Sheila and John and a very honest description of their marriage, in times both good and bad. I was very sad when I came to the last page and I would recommend this book to any fan of John Thaw, written by the person who knew him best.
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on 10 January 2005
Although not published until October last year, this apparently quickly became the best-selling biography of 2004. I got mine in my Christmas stocking, and if there should be anyone out there who wasn't so lucky, or who has not already bought it for themselves, I can recommend it wholeheartedly, but it's probably wise to keep the box of tissues handy; (though this is not to say that it is an overwrought or sentimental account of the lives of two of Britain's best-loved actors - far from it).
There are two tiers of narrative throughout the book. There is the straightforward chronological history of the childhood and development of Sheila Hancock and John Thaw, told in separate chapters up until their paths meet and, after the loss of Sheila's first husband and the break-up of John's first marriage, their wedding. Thereafter the story tends to concentrate on John's life - while it by no means neglects the successful part of his career, making Regan and Morse in particular characters that will never be forgotten, it does relate in candid detail his struggle to come to terms with being a celebrity, his difficulty in communicating in person with even his closest family, his moods and ultimately his drinking. We are spared the gory details but the relatively unemotional recounting of the events, and his eventual overcoming of them, juxtaposed with the occasional cards or letters he would write expressing his love, do make it gripping to read. Sheila's own career and personal difficulties (she had her own cancer scare) are covered but briefly at this time.
As if that weren't enough, the whole narrative is peppered with extracts from Sheila's diary, acting as a second tier to the story, starting from January 2001, three months before any inkling of John's illness, through his swift decline and then death in February 2002, and her struggle to come to terms with her loss. Again, we are spared the gory details but the process is no less harrowing for this; shining through it all is the undying love they had for each other, having survived the trials and tribulations of what had gone before. You do have to be disciplined and not just skip forward reading these diary notes alone - for example John's death is recorded at just about the point where they marry in the main narrative, - and you will miss a lot of relevant history if you do.
It's a story of life and love, of tears and happiness, of struggles and success, and almost none of the name-dropping that features in most auto/biographies. It is both sad and heart-warming, and that, coming from one relatively cold-hearted male, is acclaim indeed.
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on 1 October 2004
wonderfull, there are no words to discribe how this book touched me. Reducing me to tears more than once. this book taught me about john thaw and broke my heart at the same time. the pain shown through shelia made me fear ever to lose someone. my book is ruined with tears stains but i came out with an understanding of life after death. Would recomend to everyone.
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on 8 November 2004
A simply wonderful book ,reduced me to tears repeatedly.Clever format ,but not so clever that it leaves you lost.A great and glorious tribute to John Thaw and a total credit to Sheila Hancock.
I remember her in the Rag Trade when I was tiny ,had no idea of the depth and seriousness of her theatre background.
Read this book!
but keep hankies nearby.
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on 4 July 2005
This is the best book I have read for a long time (and I'm a real bookworm). Sheila Hancock is not only a talented actress but a marvellous author as well. This book made me cry but it is beautiful written and once I had started reading it, I couldn't put it down. Thank you to Sheila for sharing her life with us and I hope her pain at losing John, although it will never leave her, will ease with the passage of time. What a brave lady.
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Sheila Hancock was married to John Thaw for 28 years. They were wonderful, lovely, sad, dangerous, depressing and glorious years.
She writes in two person of their life together and of their separate lives before they met. Their life together, says Sheila "weathered overwork, pressures of celebrity, drink and cancer, separation and joyful reunions."
I met John Thaw as the indubitable Inspector Morse in the BBC series. What a lovely and wonderful series that was. How were we to know that John was a hopeless alcoholic and depressed person who made himself and his family so unhappy during that time? John's mother left the family when John and his brother were very small. Until late in life, John did not learn to deal with that loss or to realize his alcohol and depression were all a part of this. He was an extremely good looking man and thought of as a superb actor. He led his life as he thought he should, and at a time he realized he needed assistance to survive. He received it and he and Sheila went on to a happy life.
Both John and Sheila had been married before they met. They were meant to be they decided. Sheila's husband died of cancer and John divorced his wife. In time they found each other and got married when Sheila became pregnant. Each of them brought a daughter into their marriage and then they had a daughter from their marriage. Throughout the troubling times they both worked as actors in their chosen profession, and both were successful. Money and material things were bought. Happiness came later when they were able to rid John of his demons, Sheila never give up on John. They were sometimes separated, but their love and common sense kept them together.
Sheila wrote this book, telling of their individual lives and then intertwining the last year of John's life. John Thaw developed esophageal cancer. A terrible cancer with not a good prognosis. He survived chemotherapy and radiation therapy, surgeries and various treatments. he died as he lived, simply, he just stopped breathing. Sheila goes on to tell us of her life without John. How could she survive? We all wonder at these times, but survive she has and has told us a wonderful story of John and their life together. She is a brilliant writer. I have not seen her acting, but imagine if it is as good as her writing it is also brilliant. Highly recommended. prisrob
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on 26 July 2005
This book is so clever. Sheial interleaves John's death into their love story in a most emotional/factual way. You are delighted by the story of their lives and simultaneously touched by the events leading up to his death. She writes from the heart and I felt I knew both of them as people (Not actors) when I had completed it. It tugged my heartstrings. A very good read.
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on 1 April 2006
This is an unusual book in that it is both a biography of John Thaw and an autobiography by his wife as she comes to terms with his loss.
Both are gifted and loved actors, children of wartime England.
I was surprised to learn that John grew up in Manchester because I thought his Mancunian accent in Kavanagh seemed artificial! He seems never to have got over being abandoned by his mother at an early age. This may have contributed to lifelong depression and then alcoholism, things he hid from his public. He conquered his addiction which nearly led to the breakup of his marriage. He was indeed a superb actor.
Sheila writes well. She is well left of centre but it does not spoil the writing as she can see the good points in those she does not like. She praises Margaret Thatcher for her courage. She is helped in her grief by becoming a Quaker.
The book reminded me of the biography of James Herriot by his son. In both books the writer is telling the deceased how much they loved them.
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I'm not one for autobiographies or biographies at all; I've only ever read two - Michael J Fox's "Lucky Man" and now "The Two Of Us". If I'm honest, I was half expecting not to finish "The Two Of Us", half expecting the star of Inspector Morse and The Sweeney to be a bit of a let down, as stars often are. But it's turned out to be one of the best books I've read in a long time.

Written for John rather than an anonymous audience, "The Two Of Us" is an effortless read. While I enjoy a good book, I tend to be one of those people with half a mind always on how many pages are left to the end. But I didn't care about that with this book, I was totally wrapped up in it and enjoying the journey.

While I would never go as far as to say I felt like I knew John Thaw, by the end I did come away with a depth of understanding and, dare I say it, a sense of affection for him. There were a number of things about him that surprised me but that I also identified with. For example, I always assumed that when I was watching The Sweeney I was watching a `posh bloke' playing a streetwise cop, and that Morse was closer to the real John Thaw, so was pleasantly surprised to learn he was every inch a working class lad. In fact his background was very poverty stricken.

The main reason I liked this book so much was that I ended up liking John Thaw, although I suspect if he'd met me he'd have given me short shrift at first, mistaking me for a middle class toff! Anyway, I'd like to have known him, Sheila Hancock was very lucky to have known him - and I don't think many books could make me feel that way.
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on 25 March 2016
I liked the way Sheila Hancock interweaves her life story and professional progress with her meeting with John Thaw. It is not in chronological order as such, but far more affecting. We get a sense of her and Thaw's early life and an insight into her relationship with the curmudgeonly actor. We read about her grief and sense of loss when Thaw dies. Also, I wasn't aware how successful she was in her own life as an actress.
My admiration for this doughty lady has only increased. She has stood up for her beliefs, endured loss and still manages to display a sense of humour.
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