Less an autobiography than a very wordy resume

The Dame. When a lot of people think about Judi Dench, they think about her iconic role in Shakespeare in Love where she played Queen Elizabeth under pounds of makeup and costume. She’s a legend and been around acting for a long time. One would think her autobiography would be full of revelations and adventure. One would be wrong.

Sprinkled throughout the book, Dench mentions different journalists who have asked her extremely personal questions. Their brazenness disgusted her then, and she made it clear in the beginning of the book that, even now, she wants no part in discussing her private life. I respect that. In fact, I respect anyone who tries to separate their creative work from their personal life. I agree that they have that right to keep their personal relationships to themselves. But it begs the question, why write an autobiography if you are completely unwilling to discuss the stories of your life?

Dench instead chose to fill the pages of her book with what seemed to be a very wordy resume. It becomes apparent three chapters in that her acting credentials are prodigious to say the least. She goes through her roles so fast though that there is no time to savor stories. In fact, she rarely tells any stories beyond a sentence or two. While it seems that these stories were amusing to her and her colleagues at the time, she rushes through them so quickly in the book that most of them suffer from inside-joke-syndrome.

For instance, one of her most beloved film roles is that of M in the James Bond series. In the 241-page book, these films only get a couple of paragraphs in which she says that she enjoyed Pierce Brosnan and quotes one of her favorite lines where she calls Bond “a sexist, misogynistic dinosaur.” Then the book moves straight onto the next project. As a reader, one sits there hungry for what must be a much more interesting story.

Until reading this book, I never realized how focused she was in live theatre, and I think the book might appeal to readers who enjoy or participate in the theatre. She does discuss a lot of the lessons she has learned from acting, but beyond that, the book lacks any real substance.