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Not brave enough?
on 11 December 2008
I am and have been a fan of Julie Walters for many many years. I STILL watch "As Seen On TV" whenever I need cheering up and love Petula Gordino with a passion, so was thrilled when this book hit my doormat.
However for me it is a book of two distinct halves. The first half covers her childhood and "pre-fame" years and is detailed, funny and quite frank. You get a real sense of Julie's "voice" in the writing and I was reading avidly, getting very excited about the prospect of this detail and frankness being applied to her famous roles.
That's where the problem with the book lies.
After the detail and insight of her stories regarding her youth, Julie glosses over her famous career in an oddly cavalier fashion. I read just over a page or so on her various work with Victoria Wood and thought "That must be a teaser, she'll come back to it", but NO. That was IT! This technique was repeated constantly. Calendar Girls was not discussed AT ALL, Dinnerladies only briefly mentioned, Mrs Weasley covered in about four sentences...I could go on.
This is especially disappointing after the depth and honesty of the first half. She is very candid about her parents and her relationship with them, but once the spectre of "fame" enters the book she becomes very guarded and highly selective with information.
Her marriage and relocation to Sussex is almost mentioned "in passing" and I don't think she even refers to her daughter's serious illness, surely a defining moment in her life? Not that I expected her to trot out all the painful details, but to ignore it completely seemed decidedly odd and at the end of the book "odd" is the feeling I was left with. It seems as if Julie was able to be candid about her own personal history and that of her parents, because they have both passed away, but unable to be equally candid about her career, because it intersects with lives of people still living.
Did she receive alot of pressure from various people not to talk about certain events or particular roles? Did she just avoid talking about movies she didn't like making, or actors/actresses that she didn't get on with? Who can say?
I do understand a desire to be sensitive about writing of events that include other people, BUT if you are going to write an autobiography then I believe that you should be prepared to treat ALL events in your life with equal frankness. That's what writing "your story" is about. It is a brave act that requires openness and a willingness to let your readers "in". Ultimately, that's what disappointed me, that such a fantastic and open actress could succumb to the temptation to edit the story of her career to such an extent that it tells us nothing of her as a person that we didn't learn FAR more effectively in the "non-career" section of the book.
Sadly, though it pains me to say it, this could have been so much more.