One of those books that I was reluctant to finish as the last page drew nearer.
Prior to reading this book I only knew Peter Ustinov as the delightful character Hercule Poirot in Agatha Christie films. But I learned that he had a very long career in the theatre and that his talents seemed to include almost all areas in it.
His background alone makes for interesting reading. He is the child of Russian immigrants who settled in England but his (very talented) ancestors came from far and wide and included countries such as Ethiopia and Israel.
Parts of the book is written in the style of a soul searching dialogue between Peter Ustinov and himself, hence the title. He makes some insightful comments about life and the world. In general throughout the book I was struck by what appears to be the extreme intelligence of someone who oddly enough did not do well in school.
Many parts of the book are pure entertainment. I laughed aloud in many places. His descriptions of his eccentric relatives, his experiences in the army, how he dealt with rebellious students at Durham university are all very funny.
I can recommend this book. It is highly entertaining and amusing. But it also contains some insightful observations by a highly intelligent, observant and unique personality.
Autobiography usually sets the record crooked. This one is diffent: it is LIFE seen from the corner of an eye. This passage (pp 139-140) says all that need be said:
<Here I stood in my civilian clothes, together with a few other depressed recruits, staring into a roaring fire, under the penetrating scrutiny of an old sweat who had remained a private soldier for nigh on forty years. He had lived totally without ambition, with a clear, precise concept of his position in society. The coming of war had prevented his retirement, and now he studied us and our civilian sadness with eyes both critical and kind. 'I'd 'ave to cast me mind back forty years and more to put myself in your shoes, an' yet I remembers it as though it was yesterday,' he mused, and then, with a sudden buoyancy, he added, `There was an old sweat like myself to greet me the day I said goodbye to civvie street, and I'll tell you the story he told me to cheer me up, see. The story went as follows. Once upon a time there was two private soldiers engaged in latrine fatigues. It was autumn, and they was sweepin' the bits o' soiled toilet-paper into piles for incineration, see, when a gust o' autumn wind come along, and sent one of these bits o' bumph up in the air like a leaf, just out o' reach o' the two men, and before they could do anything about it, it 'ad gone in the Colonel's window. Now one of the men says to the other, "Listen, you go on sweepin' up. If there's any questions asked, I've been taken short. It's only 'uman, isn't it? Meanwhile, I'll go in there and try to get that bit of soiled bumph back. The old man's quite deaf, short-sighted an' all, 'e may not notice me." After a couple o' minutes, 'e's back, see, and the other private, still sweepin' away, says, "Well?" `The first private shakes 'is 'ead, gloomy-like. "I was too late," 'e said. "'E'd already signed it."'>
If you don't enjoy this book and learn from it, I'm sorry for you.