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Saint Judi - a Luvvie's Perspective
on 12 January 2009
Parts of this book are very interesting and supremely funny. This is not a biography (or, at least, not a good one), however, and to call it that is an error. John Miller is Dame Judi Dench's friend, and has clearly written this book with an eye to her approval and favor. Because of this leash on his research, the book is not anything approaching even-handed. The first half is a laundry-list of her early stage roles, and the second is a series of anecdotes regarding a lady I began to refer to as Saint Jude. If Miller is to be believed, she has never set a foot wrong, never been less than generous and perfect, and everyone in the world loves her. Come now. I adore Judi Dench, but there are no perfect people in the world, and that's just a fact.
Even the pranks that Judi pulls onstage, which when read one after the other after the other, take on the sheen of the childish, are mentioned as adorable things that that scamp Judi loves to do to keep her actor friends happy. Backstage tantrums, which are alluded to, only occur because she's so darned concerned about "getting it right," not because she's a human, and therefore inherently imperfect, human being, who sometimes loses her cool.
In addition to the above, this is an incredibly slow read. John Miller is not a particularly compelling writer, and there are times when it takes 30 minutes just to travel 15 pages in her life, because the prose is so stilted and dull.
Judi Dench is the greatest living British actress. There is no disputing that. She is someone with a fantastic sense of humor; someone I'd love to know. She is also human, and I would have preferred to read a biography that explores her less-stellar moments in a more objective way. Judi Dench: With a Crack in Her Voice is not that biography.