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From Byfleet to the Bush: The Autobiography of Jacqueline Pearce
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 26 June 2012
Jacqueline Pearce played Servalan (quite possibly one of the best female characters ever) in the tv show Blake's 7. When I bought a copy of the biography I knew nothing else about her. Then while I was waiting for it to be published I started reading her blog and discovered her to be quite an amazing woman. She has survived chronic depression, poverty and breast cancer and is now living in Africa where she was volunteering in a monkey shelter and is now looking after dogs.

This book is in many ways the opposite of a "celebrity autobiography". There are very few
stories with the rich and famous. The people she meets are portrayed through her honest impressions regardless of wealth and fame. Rather This is a story of a woman trying to stay afloat in life. A woman who just happens to be an actress. It is an inspiring story. Jacqueline remains struggling with her own mental illness and keeps fighting. Her life was strongly shaped by the fact that her mother left her and her father when Jacqueline was just a toddler and this rejection and insecurity plays a large part of the uncertainity that shapes the book.

But despite having a lot of sadness and poor choices there is also a great deal of humour in this book. I have so much respect for her and the way she keeps going. It is a very personal and honest story. If you are wanting inside stories on the making of Blake's 7 this really isn't the book for you (though I promise you will never see the transformation between 2nd and 3rd season Servalan the same again). But it was a fascinating read and I really hope that she writes more. She truly is an amazing and brave woman and I think her openness about her struggles will be inspiring to others.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 10 April 2012
The foreword by John Hurt sums up this book well. Why this tale is an autobiography becomes clear early on. Jacqueline has a natural writing style which is both charming and imaginitive. The events after her birth are complex and rather unusual as well as damaging to her. This sets the stage for a book that describes many slightly odd but realistic events in the author's life. Jacqueline suffers a childhood and adolescence that is not devoid of care but runs into the problem that general parenting doesn't recognise/make allowances for very gifted individuals. The school might not measure your field of brilliance, your ability is still developing, your parents are not like you etc. She hated her life at a convent and this was for 13 years. It's sad to think of the hurt this must have caused. Here she met an elocution teacher who recognised her talent and introduced her to the arts. This teacher actually asked to adopt Jaqueline. I can only wonder at her father's reaction to this request. This type of thing sets the tone of the story, there are fragments of hope but this is overcome by the way the system operates. The book describes many dissapointing or depressing events but in itself is written in a clear matter of fact sort of way. Her writing is not in chronological order, occasionally jumping into the future to show the result of an event. Chapter titles are mostly but not always a guide to chapter contents in this work. Occasionaly her writing has a sort of 'dilute' feel to it. I don't mean this as a criticism. She is so busy with imaginitive descriptions, analysis of events or human relationships that you feel you've missed something. Her life at RADA is where her life takes off. She meets Anthony Hopkins who tells her she has the power to be a star. It is here that the early signs that something is wrong appear. Her marriage in 1963 is not described at length. Its failure affected Jacqueline deeply causing lasting grief that is carried through the rest of the book. As her work in film and TV progressed she came into contact with the likes of Sammy Davis Jr, Liz Taylor and Richard Burton. Jacqueline moved to America but was unknown there and was unable to extend her career as an actress so she returned to London. One intriguing part of this story is her relationships with gay men. She obviously finds their company attractive and has much involvement with them. Jacqueline is probably best remembered for the sci-fi series Blakes 7. It is apparent that she is not actually a fan of this genre. The chapter entitled Blakes 7 contains virtually nothing about the 29 episodes as Servalan. I find this slightly humorous as well as adding a certain originality to the book. Part of the charm of this work are the black and white photographs of Jacqueline from being a toddler to becoming a gorgeous woman. From the thoughful, sad and hurt expressions you know the type of story in these pages. Her life is fairly chaotic and involves a great deal of movement. There is a level of malaise in her life that I found touching and that few would detail so openly. Hers is a fascinating story of extremes like living on a WW2 MTB on the Thames or staying with an elderly lady in a Hollywood mansion, the people she shares her life with from the famous to the mysterious Hussein or strange and sometimes unpleasant characters. Jacqueline's relationships with men surface in some way in many chapters. The chapter Joel reveals much about her happiness and slightly self destructive nature. In this chapter there are subjects as varied as the inner self, thoughts on poverty and seeing the world with Joel. Money is also something that keeps appearing and in terms of actual amounts. You get a feel for the uncertain life of an actress with irregular income before the next big cheque. Towards the end she tells of her life in London before heading off to Africa. She found it difficult to believe her flatmate might be jealous of her, someone who is unmarried, childless, not rich etc. Jacqueline seems unable to see her own beauty, her fame, her films or the magnitude of her achievements. She is quite hard on herself throughout this book, having a tendency to underestimate her success and overestimate what might have been. This is not a book for people who think others should "Get over it". It is an honest and accurate description of her life and was I suspect a difficult book to write.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 29 March 2013
I read a lot of autobiographies, and, despite enjoying them, often wonder at the end - what's the REAL story? With this wonderful book by the very under-rated Jacueline Pearce no-one is left wondering... She bares her all, sometime literally, and let's you into her life and her mind in a wonderfully understated way - the only thing you are left wanting is more, more, more... I am sure this book will pass many by, many will wonder who Jaqueline Pearce is and the title and cover don't give any clues - but whether you want to read about the backstage life of the star of Blakes Seven or just about a very talented actress and her varied and vivacious attempts to hold it together and fulfill her destiny, you'll enjoy this book immensely... I did!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 13 June 2012
Don't expect pages devoted to Blakes 7..but do expect an incredibly funny, heart-warming, at times tragic, but life-affirming story.

JP gives us great insight into her varied life, and talks openly about mental illness. The style is witty yet deep, and never self-indulgent, and I could not put this down.

Be prepared to laugh a lot!
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on 24 October 2013
I found this book to be very open and honest, so much so that it is quite raw in places, but very compelling. Kudos to Ms. Pearce for having the courage to detail her life like this. It is a shame that she didn't have more success as an actor, but her book gives the reader an insight into how her personal problems sabotaged her chances so often. I wish her good health, and hope her new life in Africa gives her continued happiness.
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on 27 March 2014
A highly enjoyable read, which I would recommend to anyone who likes a good autobiography and anyone who remembers her in Blakes 7.
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