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.
Call the Doctor
A Country GP Between the Wars: Tales of Courage, Hardship and Hope
Working as a doctor in London's East End and then on a hospital train and at the Front during the First World War formed Ronald White-Cooper's training for his medical career, which was then spent as a local GP in the South Devon town of Dartmouth. This memoir provides a host of stories and medical anecdotes from the pre-penicillin and pre-NHS world of the first half of the 20th century.
Mikey Walsh was born into a family of Romany gypsies and brought up, with no formal education, in the isolated and fiercely loyal culture of the traditional gypsy community. This acclaimed autobiography tells the story of his childhood with a cruel and abusive father and how coming out as gay forced him to abandon his roots, educate himself and seek a new life.
Scenes and Apparitions
As Director of the National Portrait Gallery and the V&A, Sir Roy Strong was a leading figure in Britain’s cultural life. His second volume of diaries begins as he leaves the public stage to devote himself to writing and his love of gardening. With a rich and diverse cast of characters including Tony Blair, Judi Dench, Elton John, Laurence Olivier, Harold Pinter, Margaret Thatcher and the Queen, it casts a wryly humorous eye over the turn of the millennium.
A Field Full of Butterflies
Memories of a Romany Childhood
Born in a Gypsy wagon in 1938, Rosemary Penfold grew up amid the fields of Somerset. In this beautifully written, richly evocative memoir, she recounts the love and losses, hopes and struggles, traditions and prejudices of a close-knit community faced with a rapidly changing world. This moving testament to a disappearing way of life took her to the finals of Alan Titchmarsh’s People’s Author competition.
While awaiting execution after the Second World War, Rudolf Hoess, the SS commandant of Auschwitz, wrote a long account of his life and his management of the concentration camp. Jürg Amann has distilled Hoess’s memoir into this very different book. Where Hoess showed no remorse, Amann gives a chilling insight into Hitler’s Final Solution and its practitioners. With an afterword by Ian Buruma.
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.
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.
'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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Furtwängler. 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.
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.
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 Richard Burton Diaries
Richard Burton's rugged good looks, dark charisma and resonant voice made him one of the most admired actors of his day, while his bouts of drinking and tempestuous marriages to Elizabeth Taylor were seldom out of the tabloids. Throughout much of his life he kept an intimate diary, published here for the first time. Perceptive, humorous and indiscreet, it reveals the conflicted man behind the public image: proud, passionate, fiercely intelligent, awesomely well-read, yet self-lacerating and insecure.
Time to be in Earnest
A Fragment of Autobiography
PD James (1920–2014) was not only the most stylish and intelligent crime writer of her generation – she was an influential figure in politics, culture and the media. In this, her only autobiographical work, she considers the year leading up to her 78th birthday, and looks back over her past: growing up in the 1920s and '30s, giving birth during an air raid, working for the Home Office forensic department, and her career as a novelist.
Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow
In this touching memoir, the luminous Italian Oscar-winner reflects on her life, from her infancy in war-torn Naples to the dizzy heights of worldwide fame. Each chapter begins with an object such as a letter or a photograph that brings back memories: of her family; of her late husband, Carlo Ponti; of friends and co-stars such as Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando and Richard Burton; and of the joy and satisfaction of being a mother and a grandmother.
Celebrant of Beauty
Lauded by Don Bradman as a literary genius, Neville Cardus (1888-1975) wrote about both music and cricket for the Manchester Guardian for more than half a century. In this memoir Robin Daniels, who compiled the acclaimed Conversations with Cardus, revisits his deep friendship with his fellow Lancastrian, quoting gems from his cricket writing and his assessments of great musicians such as Thomas Beecham and Kathleen Ferrier, as well as analysing the features that made his writing so genial and evocative.
by Celia Birtwell
Textile designer Celia Birtwell (b.1941) was one of British fashion's most fêted figures in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as a muse for David Hockney whose painting Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy featured Birtwell and her then-husband Ossie Clark. Her colourful and vibrant designs for clothes and home fabrics, often featuring flowers, animals and birds, are lavishly illustrated in this scrapbook, alongside photos from her life and career, comments from friends and colleagues, and her own reminiscences and observations.
Peake in China
Memoirs of Ernest Cromwell Peake
Dr Ernest Peake (1874-1950), the father of Mervyn Peake, was a newly qualified doctor when he was sent to China by the London Missionary Society in 1899, and he practised medicine in Hunan province and Tientsin until 1923. These memoirs describe his experience of 'the Celestial Empire' during a period that saw the violent end of Manchu rule and the start of the Chinese Republic. The memoirs are published here for the first time, with an introduction by Hilary Spurling.
A Life in Pictures
Glasgow-born Alasdair Gray (b.1934) is perhaps better known for such novels as Lanark: A Life in Four Books (1981) than his art. But he has spent a lifetime making murals, portraits, landscapes and illustrations, which are reproduced copiously in this substantial volume of 'autopictography'. The accompanying text, which is forthright and insightful, narrates how his work has developed from the 1950s to the present, including many stories highlighting the influence of friends and family on his artistic direction.
The Last Nights of Cleopatra
Having arrived in Alexandria in the winter of 2010–2011 with the intention of working on his eighth attempt at a biography of Cleopatra, Peter Stothard, a former editor of The Times, found his plans spoiled by the onset of the Arab Spring. The book he writes is a chronicle of his stay in the city, visiting ancient sites amid the gathering political storm, but it is also a fragmentary memoir of his youth, glimpsed through the history of Cleopatra.
Alive, Alive Oh!
And Other Things That Matter
After four decades as an editor with André Deutsch, Diana Athill (b.1917) began a second career as a writer with her memoir, Stet, in 2001. Alive, Alive Oh! is her fifth book, reflecting on being very old and looking back, not on literary work, but on memorable experiences of places and things including her grandparents' garden in Norfolk, a miscarriage in her forties, and a £21 holiday at the new Club Méditerranée, Corfu, in the 1950s.
There's no one quite like Brian Blessed: actor, storyteller, mountaineer and coffin-maker. In this frank, and frankly riotous, memoir, he recalls his childhood in a Yorkshire mining town, his breakthrough on Z Cars, falling for Katharine Hepburn, raising hell with Peter O'Toole, meeting the love of his life, the actress Hildegard Neil – and punching Harold Pinter down a flight of stairs. 'No long dramatic pauses this time, Harold; he got one right on the side of the jaw. Wham!'
Hemingway in Love
His Own Story
In 1961, a few weeks before Hemingway took his own life, AE Hotchner visited his old friend for the last time. What the writer told him formed the final piece of the mystery Hemingway had been revealing down the years: the story of the affair that destroyed his marriage, and the woman who haunted his life and fiction. Withheld for decades out of consideration for his widow, this frank account reveals an unknown Hemingway: humble, thoughtful and full of regret.
In this memoir, originally published in 1980, we follow Clive James (b.1939) on his journey to the cusp of manhood in post-war Sydney. With humour and charm he tells of his battles with school, girls and a 'virile organ, which chose the most inconvenient moments to expand', while at university he undergoes a 'cruel exposure to the awkward fact that the arts attract the insane'. This Picador Classic features a new afterword by James and an introduction from PJ O'Rourke.
Dancing Fish and Ammonites
Memory and history have been Penelope Lively's terrain throughout a writing career that has spanned five decades. Here she looks back on her wartime childhood, her early love of archaeology and the sweeping social change she has witnessed. From the vantage of old age, she reflects on a lifetime's reading and writing, and contemplates six cherished objects, including fossil ammonites from a Dorset beach and an Egyptian potsherd decorated with leaping fish. (Previously published as Ammonites and Leaping Fish.)
A Likely Tale, Lad
Laughs & Larks Growing Up in the 1970s
In this endearing memoir a former police officer who appeared in the 2005 BBC series Country Cops recalls his 1970s childhood in the North Yorkshire countryside. In retrospect, it seems to him like a perpetual summer: the family setting off on holiday in his dad's Morris Traveller, its roof-rack piled high; bicycle adventures and boyish pranks; fishing and football; jam sandwiches and pop – all set amid the idyllic landscape of God's Own County peopled with larger-than-life characters.
Some Sunny Day
Born in 1917, Dame Vera Lynn was 92 when she realized that her great age gave a better perspective (she wrote her first autobiography in her fifties) and she had to 'get everything down on paper in a final account'. Here then is the life of 'an ordinary girl from an ordinary family with a voice that you could recognize' – but also an embodiment of British spirit during the Second World War.