Reviewed by Gail McDonald
Sheila Hancock is one of Britain’s most highly regarded and popular actors. Sheila received a Damehood for services to drama and charity in 2021; and only following the death of her husband John Thaw in 2002 took up writing. A memoir of their marriage The Two of Us was a number one bestseller and won the British Book Award for Author of the Year. Just Me, a memoir of her widowhood, was published in 2007 and was also a best seller, followed by a novel titled Miss Carter’s War. She lives in London and France.
Sheila Hancock is a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), to which she refers frequently throughout the book, which is a philosophy that governs much of who she is.
At the beginning of this memoir Old Rage, which chronicles her life and times from January 2016 -June 2021, the author reflects on her upbringing at the time of the Second World War; and when she was evacuated for first time, she spent it in the country and was terrified of the monster cows in the field next door to her billet. She explains that is why she is more at home in rural France, because where I live there are no animals in the field.
Throughout the book, the author identifies her concerns about issues she is passionate about. For example: she was a staunch anti-Brexit advocate and the night prior to the referendum she went on a television debate trying to explain why she personally wanted Britain to remain in the European Union. Her reasoning was simply to continue to see a united Europe – one that together could resolve huge problems of inequality and poverty and mass migration of populations.
In 2019, the author under her guise of the old raged woman noted: Our leaders worldwide are not the most dependable at the moment: Putin, Erdogan, Netanyahu, Kim Jong-un – the lunatics have taken over the asylum.
She freely makes many comments about politicians throughout the book particularly around the time of Brexit and the demise of Theresa May; and demonstrates no love lost for her successor Boris Johnston. Her comments about Donald Trump were equally tart.
Notably, as this is a memoir, a great deal of the book is about her relationship with the people with whom she had most contact in her life – other actors; and she gives some interesting insights into these relationships and her acting life. Another focus is on her husband John Thaw.
The author comments a great deal about the onslaught of the pandemic and how it impacted on her, her acting career and the career of so many people as the world went into ”shutdown”. But with her indomitable spirit, she followed through with rules of masks and mandates and used the time to learn new things such as Zoom meetings, at the ripe old age of 87.
The book highlights her very positive attitude to life and her concern and consideration of others.
The book was an insightful read into the life of a famous person who we would have all connected with during some performance, on stage or in film and television.
I would recommend it.
by Sheila Hancock
ISBN 978 152664 745 0