Author: Miriam Margolyes
Title: This Much Is True
Publisher: Hachette 2021, RRP $49.99 (hardback)
Best known these days as Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter films, Miriam Margolyes has worked since 1965 as a voice-over artist, theatre and screen actor, and documentary maker. She also appears regularly on talk shows such as The Graham Norton Show.
This is a no-holds-barred telling of her life history, from her great-grandfather, who was jailed for seven years, to her less than gracious meeting with the Queen at a Book Week reception in 2005, and beyond. As her appearances on talk shows indicate, Miriam freely speaks her mind, and in her autobiography, with no censor (other than the publishers’ lawyers), she freely lets rip with both language and tales of her activities and proclivities.
Miriam’s mother, Ruth Sandmann, did the ‘right thing’ by marrying a doctor, Joseph Margolyes. They moved from Glasgow to Oxford during World War II, five months before Miriam was born. She remained the only child of the quiet, retiring doctor and his social-climbing wife. By all accounts she was much loved and describes an extremely close relationship with her mother in particular.
The writing is mostly chronological, though with characteristic asides and leaps forward and backward in time. Miriam describes her school and university days, her working life and, most importantly for her, her friendships. The more controversial aspects of her life are also covered: her sexuality and sexual encounters generally, and her political stances in relation to both Britain and Palestine/Israel.
The writing displays Miriam’s usual verve and vivacity; it’s possible to hear her voice, that is, her own voice and not one of the many she has developed in her professional life, while reading her words. It sometimes seems like she has met, and freely drops the names of, everyone in the British acting world for the past 60 years, but there’s no sense of it being name-dropping for the sake of boosting her own image. Miriam displays a healthy ego when she talks about knowing how good she is at her job. On the other hand, there is a deep sadness when she talks about her poor body image and the ravages of time on a body not well cared for.
Miriam pulls no punches in relation to some of her more outrageous behaviour or her attitude to sex and sexuality. Sometimes the writing leaves one gasping, not just for what she’s written but with the descriptions of what she’s done. The reader is left gobsmacked that anyone would even do some of the things she describes.
The book reveals the life of a complex, talented and most of all interesting personality with all its foibles. If you’re prepared to be shocked from time to time, I highly recommend it.
Review by: M. Elisabeth Bridson
Ballarat Writers Inc. Book Review Group
Review copy provided by the publisher