The Blaze of Obscurity
Unreliable Memoirs V
In the fifth volume of his memoirs, the endlessly witty Clive James (b.1939) tells the inside story of his years in TV, including the documentary special Clive James on Safari, which took him to Kenya, the long-running Clive James on Television and the Postcard from... programmes - work that inducted him into celebrity culture, 'the strange world where everybody knows your face while you hardly ever know theirs'.
On New Year's Day 1947, Lord Mountbatten was tasked with guiding India to independence as its last Viceroy. Accompanying her parents, Mountbatten's 17-year-old daughter spent 15 months as eye-witness to the proceedings of India's liberation. Her diaries, complemented by extracts from family photo albums, are an intimate guide to these events, and include encounters with Ghandi and Nehru, historic scenes both inspirational and harrowing, and fond recollections of trips around the India of the late 1940s.
Have You Been Good?
The granddaughter of Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson, Vanessa Nicolson was born to an illustrious name and an unhappy marriage. In this brutally frank, bittersweet memoir, she chronicles her reckless childhood and disjointed youth, summer holidays at Sissinghurst Castle, and life at a liberal boarding school. Interlinked with her story is that of her daughter Rosa, who died at the age of 19. The result is a powerful meditation on love and loss, cultural privilege and emotional deprivation.
Must You Go?
My Life with Harold Pinter
The Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter and the acclaimed biographer Antonia Fraser lived together for 33 years until his death in 2008. Based on the diaries she kept from 1968, Fraser's memoir of their life together is a touching and insightful account of the joys, sorrows and difficulties they shared. In recounting their daily activities, it sheds fascinating light on Pinter's writing, the worlds of theatre, film and television, and his unflagging and often controversial political activism. American cut pages. Felt-tip mark on lower trimmed edge.
The Measure of a Man
Unable to read and write when he left the Caribbean island of his birth, Sidney Poitier had already come a long way when he joined the American Negro Theater in New York in the 1940s. This memoir reflects on a life and career during which he has received acclaim for his performances in film as well as helping to break down racial prejudice in America.
A London Year
365 Days of City Life in Diaries, Journals and Letters
An anthology of 'intimate snatches of London life', with one or more entries for each day of the year, this handsome volume begins with a hungover Robert Hooke on 1 January 1672; in June we find Noel Coward detesting the 1951 Festival of Britain funfair ('really the last word in squalor and completely ungay'); and, finally, there is a millennial disappointment - MP Oona King on New Year's Eve 1999, stuck at Stratford Tube station en route to the Millennium Dome festivities.
A Long Lunch
My Stories and I'm Sticking to Them
Despite a 40-year career as one of our wittiest commentators on modern life - and modern parliamentarians in particular - Simon Hoggart (1946-2014) claimed that 'even I would find a book about my life pretty dull'. But this wonderfully entertaining memoir finds him in dangerous places (Ian Smith's Rhodesia and Belfast in 1989) as well as hosting BBC Radio's News Quiz; and, from the thick of British political life, recounting anecdotes of MPs and PMs from Macmillan to Cameron.
Days from a Different World
A Memoir of Childhood
John Simpson is well known as the BBC's leading foreign correspondent, reporting from the front line of conflicts such as the Iraq war. In this engaging memoir, he turns his attention to matters closer to home: his own childhood in 1950s Croydon. His honest and clear-sighted account of the unravelling of his parents' marriage amid the austerity of postwar Britain vividly evokes a vanished era and shows how lives can be irrevocably changed by war.
Tomorrow is D-Day
On 3 June 1944, on the eve of D-Day, Generals Eisenhower and Montgomery held a farewell party for all the senior officers commanding forces for the Normandy invasion. The party was held at Supermarine's headquarters near Winchester and a suitable security-cleared lady was required as hostess. Stella Rutter, the first draughtswoman to work for the Spitfire manufacturer, was entrusted with this sensitive duty; this book tells her remarkable story and records her memories of the historic gathering.
Sergei Eisenstein's films Battleship Potemkin (1925) and October (1928) were acclaimed worldwide, but his experimental techniques were criticized by Soviet authorities and his output was severely curtailed by political difficulties. This translation of his autobiography, written two years before his death in 1948, recounts his life in the Soviet Union and his travels in the West and includes his thoughts about film, art and culture.
'A Very Fine Commander'
The Memoirs of General Sir Horatius Murray
After experiences as a junior officer in India, China and Egypt, 'Nap' Murray climbed from the rank of Major to Lieutenant General between 1939 and 1945 and rose to the highest levels of NATO after the war. This memoir contains accounts of his actions in North Africa, Sicily, Normandy, Italy, Palestine and Korea as well as his encounters with many of the leading military figures of the age and unusual episodes such as training with the German Army in 1937.
Entirely Up to You, Darling
A leading British actor of the 1940s and 1950s, Richard Attenborough's work as a director - of movies such as Oh! What A Lovely War, Gandhi and Cry Freedom - is probably his outstanding contribution to film history. In this autobiography, he describes the struggles and triumphs of his long career in show business as well as his private life, including the tragic deaths of his daughter and granddaughter in the tsunami of 2004.
Brenda Blethyn is one of Britain's best-loved actresses. In this autobiography she tells the story of her early life and career, from 1940s Ramsgate where she was the youngest of nine children, to the National Theatre, television, Hollywood and stardom. She tells her tale with characteristic warmth and humour; the story of how she forced herself to run the London Marathon, three times, is a typical example.
Skorzeny's Special Missions
The Memoirs of Hitler's Most Daring Commando
While recuperating from an injury acquired on the Eastern Front in 1941, Otto Skorzeny made a study of unconventional warfare and put forward his ideas to senior German commanders. Given the opportunity to lead a commando unit he became famous for the successful mission to rescue of Mussolini from captivity in 1943. This memoir, first published in 1957, recounts his various exploits including his interrogation and internment after the war.
An Autobiography of General Custer
George Armstrong Custer gained a reputation as an innovative and bold cavalry leader during and after the American Civil War but his successes have been overshadowed by the famous defeat at Little Bighorn. Presented as an autobiography, much of this book is drawn from Custer's own writings, principally his My Life on the Plains. The 'last stand', in which he lost his life, is covered by a contemporary interview about the battle with his vanquisher, Sitting Bull.
The Diary of Lena Mukhina
Sixteen-year-old Lena Mukhina lived through the Siege of Leningrad during the years 1941–42 and, through it all, she kept a diary. Translated here for the first time, it constitutes a vivid testimony of how Lena, her family and her fellow citizens fought to stay alive in a living hell that lasted for months through the bitterly cold Russian winter. Her courage and insight make this an absorbing and moving account of the cruelty of war.
A Memoir of Growing Up
In this magical memoir, Antonia Fraser recalls her idiosyncratic upbringing with inimitable humour and style. Packed with incident and anecdote, it vividly evokes her childhood in Oxford where her father, the future Lord Longford, was a don, her education at a convent school, wartime evacuation to a romantic Elizabethan manor house, and her 'deeply, gloriously, heroically eccentric' great-uncle, Lord Dunsany. Above all, it charts her growing fascination with the subject to which she would devote her adult life: history.
Dangerous to Know
Chapman Pincher was a Fleet Street legend, an investigative journalist whose name was synonymous with espionage at the highest level. This frank memoir, written shortly before he died at the age of 100, lifts the lid on the many sensational cases he covered, from the development of the atomic bomb through the 'Spycatcher' case in the 1980s to the death of Princess Diana. The result is a gripping expose of treachery at the heart of the British establishment.
I Know Nothing!
Much loved as the Spanish waiter Manuel in Fawlty Towers, Andrew Sachs (1930-2016) was born in Berlin rather than Barcelona and fled to England in 1938 after his father was arrested by the Gestapo. In this compelling and often hilarious memoir he tells of his early years in showbiz, the success of the infamous Torquay hotel, and his acting career beyond Fawlty, which included Shakespeare, Dustin Hoffman's Quartet, a stint as Father Brown, and Snowy in BBC Radio 5's Tintin.
Stand Up Straight and Sing!
Jessye Norman is one of the finest classical singers of our age, the possessor of a glorious voice of unique range and power. In this frank, engaging and insightful memoir, she tells of her journey from small-town America to the opera houses of London, Paris, Berlin and New York. She reflects on the dedication required to master her art, on racism and her political education in the Civil Rights movement, offering a rare insight into the woman behind the voice.
The Railway Man
Eric Lomax (1919-2012) had always been fascinated by steam locomotives; during the Second World War he became a railway man on the notorious Japanese Burma route. In this memoir he describes the captivity and abuse that he somehow survived and his meeting, many years later, with one of his torturers.
Recipe for Life
This autobiography reveals a life devoted to cookery, from training at the Cordon Bleu and demonstrating ovens to magazine journalism, regular TV appearances and bestselling recipe books. Berry also discusses the highs and lows of family life before taking readers behind the scenes at the show that has brought her new fame, The Great British Bake Off. The book features intimate photos, favourite recipes and commentary from family and friends, including Paul Hollywood on his 'TV mum'. Off-mint.
Life, Love and The Archers
Recollections, Reviews and Other Prose
The 'recollections' part of this book originated in an abandoned autobiography, rescued from oblivion by Wendy Cope's editor and now offering a many-faceted portrait of the poet, along with pieces about writing, book reviews, television columns written for The Spectator, and occasional pieces ('all the bits that didn't fit in anywhere else') on, among other topics, smoking, killer sudoku and the water meadows in Winchester.
Though born in Cardiff, Griff Rhys Jones was brought up in Essex. Ever since he sang in the choir at school and packed down for its rugby team, a question has nagged him: is he sufficiently Welsh? Here the writer and television presenter sets out to explore the 'land of his aunties', from Monmouthshire to Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons to the Gower Peninsula, in search of his Celtic roots, getting to grips with the language, culture and landscape on the way.
And Do You Also Play the Violin?
Carl F Flesch (1910-2008) was the son of renowned German violinist Carl Flesch, so as a child he came into contact with some of the greatest musicians who worked in 1920s and 1930s Berlin. In this 1990 book he combines his own reminiscences of this period with excerpts from his father's Memoirs and much previously unpublished material preserved in his archive - especially letters from such figures as Artur Schnabel, Joseph Joachim and Wilhelm Furtwangler. Slightly off-mint.
Five Easy Pieces
Michael Holroyd, the well-known biographer, offers a short and often hilarious self-portrait in 'five easy pieces', each dominated by a motor vehicle: the moribund Ford in his grandparents' garage; the old Austin in which he learned to drive; his first car, a daffodil-coloured DAF; the cars of his biographical subjects - Augustus John's Buick and Bernard Shaw's De Dietrich; and his present Honda, with its 'extraordinarily insensitive' sat-nav.
When One Door Closes
A Liverpool boy and schoolfriend of Paul McCartney, Peter Sissons was a war reporter until a sniper's bullet put an end to that career. Instead he became one of Britain's most distinguished newsreaders, guiding a generation through every momentous event of the past 45 years. In this funny but often poignant memoir, he reveals what he really thinks of global affairs, the state of the media and the workings of the BBC.
Tales of a Tiller Girl
My True Story of Dancing in Wartime London
In the early 1950s, after growing up in Battersea, dancing with the Italia Conti school on the West End stages of wartime London and performing through summer seasons in Blackpool and winter seasons in pantomime, Irene Holland won a coveted place in the Tiller Girls troupe at the London Palladium. Her very engaging memoir describes her passion for dancing and the thrill of achieving her ambition.
My Life as an Explorer
In this book, written a year before his disappearance while searching the Arctic for a missing airship, the legendary Norwegian explorer recounts his epic career. From his first Antarctic voyage with a Belgian expedition in 1897-1899, it tracks his journey around the top of Canada, his 1911 race to reach the South Pole before the ill-fated Captain Scott, and his pioneering airship flight over the North Pole.
Please, Mister Postman
One of the most liked and respected members of the Blair government, the former Home Secretary and current MP for West Hull and Hessle Alan Johnson found a devoted readership with the first volume of his memoirs, This Boy. The sequel takes up the story in 1969, as the author, now a husband and father, is working 12-hour shifts as a postman in Slough. The book paints a vivid picture of 1970s England, with its beer, bingo, cribbage and industrial unrest.
Being a Scot
This unusual book, written with Murray Grigor, is far removed from the standard actor's memoir. Although Connery does indeed recount his Edinburgh childhood, early career and later life, he employs this biographical framework as a springboard for a series of entertaining discussions of Scottish identity as reflected in the nation's art, literature, architecture, sport... and its surreal humour. The result is a stimulating and very personal inquiry into what it means to be Scottish.
From Germany to Germany
Journal of the Year 1990
Following the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 and the collapse of Communism, Germany and Europe experienced a period of immense upheaval. In 1990 the novelist Gunter Grass travelled widely through both Germanys - the former East and the former West - immersing himself in the political debate around reunification. His journal portrays life in Europe at a key moment in history, as seen by one of its most engaged and observant writers.
Ronnie Corbett (1930-2016) was one of Britain's best-loved entertainers. Here he discusses his life and work with characteristic self-deprecating wit, including his Edinburgh childhood before the war; early ventures on the stage and screen; encounters with stars such as John Cleese, Noel Coward, Tony Hancock and Spike Milligan; plus his solo sitcom Sorry! and - of course - his long-running partnership with Ronnie Barker.
A Notable Woman
The Romantic Journals of Jean Lucey Pratt
Jean Pratt was a trainee architect, journalist and publicist who lived in a Buckinghamshire cottage and ran a local bookshop. Though she was well-known in bookselling circles, none of her friends had any idea that, from the age of 16, she kept a diary, which ran to more than a million words by the time she died in 1986. It recounts, with aching honesty and infectious humour, love and loss, wartime privations, books read, indiscreet gossip - and her many feline companions.
Jack Duckworth and Me
Bill Tarmey (1941-2012) played the lovable rogue Jack Duckworth in Coronation Street for 31 years until his character was killed off during the show's 50th anniversary in 2010. His story of growing up in post-war Manchester, singing in working men's clubs, and then finding his niche playing a rascal whose life uncannily mirrored his own will be cherished by all fans of Britain's longest-running soap.
The Pearly Prince of St Pancras
Born into a family of costermongers, Alf Dole (1930-2013) was the grandson of the first Pearly King of St Pancras, and his proudest moment was putting on his own special suit as the Pearly Prince at the age of seven. His memoir vividly recalls a vanished world of pub singalongs, hop-picking summers in Kent and wartime camaraderie. With a foreword by the singer-songwriter Suggs.