Top critical review
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Lazy, sloppy - a missed opportunity
on 8 November 2013
I guess I should've known better than to order this book. It's well known that Martin Freeman values his privacy, and it was to be anticipated that neither he nor his family and close friends would have granted the author of this book any interviews or insights into Martin's early years and private life. However, as a sucker for all things Freeman, I had pre-ordered this book and am, promptly, thoroughly disappointed with it and sorry to have spent the money. This book's cover should not read "The Biography", instead it should read "A biography - sort of, when you're squinting".
The first couple of chapters clearly prepare the reader for what this book is about: The author has obviously written it from the comfort of his desk, by simply googling his way through `Martin Freeman' hits and accumulating the text for his book from the information found. All facts he lists are available to the public, on that magical thing called the Internet. He has not bothered to go and speak to people who were involved in Martin's private or even professional life, such as former drama teachers, directors, co-stars etc.
In a, seemingly desperate, attempt to fill the pages and justify the publication of a 272 page book, the author resorts to giving us geo- and demographic details about Martin Freeman's various places of residence (if I'm interested to learn the names of all counties neighbouring Hampshire, or the history of the town of Aldershot, it is not this book I would buy!); tells us which other well-known personalities share Martin's birthday (Alfred Jarry, anyone?); listing the highest grossing films of the year 1971, and so on. In order to bulk up this book's pages, the author lists, for instance, every single song title on Martin's brother's CD, the titles and air dates of all episodes of various TV series Martin's been involved with, and gives us, amongst much other completely irrelevant detail, five lines listing the filmography of a co-star in a 7 minute short film Martin's starred in.
Nick Johnstone, in his desperation, also considered it necessary to give us multi-page narrations of Martin's numerous short films. Whilst these films are excellent and clearly a labour of love for Martin and therefore important to us admirers of his work, they can all be seen on YouTube and a simple reference to that, plus a brief plot summary, would have completely sufficed.
What this book is sorely missing, and what marks a genuine, good biography is (as mentioned above), interviews, interesting background information about the films, TV series, theatre plays etc that Martin's worked on, analysis of his work and so on. Even from his cosy desk chair, Nick Johnstone could have made more of an effort by watching interviews on YouTube or bonus features on DVDs and son on. He doesn't even mention Martin's radio work, which he enjoys, such as filling in for Stephen Merchant on his show (in its entirety on YouTube, Nick!). The huge success that is `Sherlock' only warrants a handful of pages in this peculiar book, as does `The Hobbit'. The author therefore dedicates more pages to short films and productions in which Martin has one minute cameos, than the (so far) two biggest successes of his career. Go figure.
Not only lazy but also sloppy, the author - and his editor - allowed this book to go to print with innumerable spelling mistakes, some really dodgy punctuation, lots of missing words, and - indeed - some good few superfluous words. He even manages to call Martin's partner Amanda, "Abby" on one occasion, and even spells Tolkien's name wrong.
Dear Reader, save your money and yourself a lot of irritation and disappointment, and DO NOT purchase this train wreck of a book. In my opinion, it is better to not own a biography of Martin Freeman than to curse one's way through this terrible book.
Mr Johnstone, I strongly suggest you go back to writer's school, and take your editor with you!
Oh, one good thing about the book: It shows a lovely cover photograph of Martin...