Sunday, June 03, 2012

Judi Dench and Anna Quindlen: Memoirs

Faced with writing posts about two memoirs I recently finished, I decided to combine them.

I listened to Judi Dench's And Furthermore and loved every minute of it.  Read by Samantha Bond, who sounded so much like Dench that I usually forgot that it wasn't being read by the author, it was a joy from beginning to end.  I admire Dench's work as well as her sense of humor, work ethic, respect for her colleagues and audience, and unwillingness to sacrifice her soul to celebrity.

I loved hearing about her years in the theatre, doing mostly Shakespeare and other classical plays, before she entered the world of television and cinema.  I also loved hearing the backstory and her thoughts about some of my favorite things she's been in, namely As Time Goes By, MacbethShakespeare in Love, Mrs. Brown, and Cranford

I was really eager to hear what she said about Pride and Prejudice, which I didn't care for as an adaptation, and was surprised that she didn't really say much about it other than after getting the part she rang up her old friend, Barbara Leigh Hunt, who played Lady Catherine in the 1995 BBC production, to tell her she would be playing the same part in a movie.  She talked a bit about the butler who played Lady Catherine's butler in the movie--he came with the estate and did such a great job that he gave up being a butler.  And that was it--she didn't weigh in on whether she thought it was a good adaptation, script, or anything.  Maybe her lack of stated opinion says it all.

After listening to this marvelous memoir of her long and illustrious career, I had the fleeting notion that maybe I would watch all her movies in order.  I'm not sure I have the time for such an endeavor but I do know she has done a lot of movies that I haven't seen that sound really wonderful.

Finally, I've found myself telling the family Judi Dench anecdotes all week--surely the sign of a memorable book.  This is by no means a "tell-all" book, but then I doubt I would've like it so much if it had been.

Anna Quindlen's memoir, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, was a different beast altogether.  This is a very recently published book and it's been getting lots of press.  Since I've never read anything by Anna Quindlen, apart from some newspaper columns over the years, I wanted to find out if I liked her as a writer.

Honestly, I still don't know.  Her memoir was readable and interesting and I found myself resonating with her life to some degree--we are mostly of the same generation, though she's a tad older than me, but most of her childhood and adolescent and young adult memories were of stuff that I could relate to.  I suppose I should read one of her novels so that I can really see what makes her such a popular author as I really didn't get a sense of it from her memoir.


  1. I'm listening to Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake right now (read by the author) and absolutely love it! Have enjoyed several of her novels, but I actually prefer her nonfiction.

    We saw The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel last night, so your thoughts on And Furthermore are very timely. Off to to investigate ...

  2. I do like Judi Dench, so will look out for her book.

    I know very little about Anna Quindlen but I have read one of her book's which I did enjoy - Blessings. I liked well enough to buy Rise and Shine, which I haven't read yet.