Friday 13 November 2020

Review: Let's Do It. The Authorised Biography of Victoria Wood by Jasper Rees

In her passport Victoria Wood listed her occupation as 'entertainer' - and in stand-up and sketches, songs and sitcom, musicals and dramas, she became the greatest entertainer of the age. Those things that might have held her back - her lonely childhood, her crippling shyness and above all the disadvantage of being a woman in a male-run industry - she turned to her advantage to make extraordinary comedy about ordinary people living ordinary lives in ordinary bodies. She wasn't fond of the term, but Victoria Wood truly was a national treasure - and her loss is still keenly felt.

Victoria had plenty of stories still to tell when she died in 2016, and one of those was her own autobiography.

'I will do it one day,' she told the author and journalist Jasper Rees. 'It would be about my childhood, about my first few years in showbusiness, which were really interesting and would make a really nice story.'

That sadly never came to pass, so Victoria's estate has asked Jasper Rees, who interviewed her more than anyone else, to tell her extraordinary story in full. He has been granted complete and exclusive access to Victoria's rich archive of personal and professional material, and has conducted over 200 interviews with her family, friends and colleagues - among them Victoria's children, her sisters, her ex-husband Geoffrey Durham, Julie Walters, Celia Imrie, Dawn French, Anne Reid, Imelda Staunton and many more.

What emerges is a portrait of a true pioneer who spoke to her audience like no one before or since.

Review: I was a little unsure about this book just because I was so upset when Victoria Wood died and I still don't feel like I've moved past it. But I loved her work so much how could I not read this book? It begins and ends with her most famous song, Let's Do It, just like the title of the book and so for once I listened on regular speed so I could listen and enjoy her words and music. 

This is a long book, I'm normally a little put off by books this long but I will tell you I listened on audiobook and it absolutely flew by. I listened to all 20 hours over about 3 days during my drives to work, in the gym and whilst doing things around the house. I love the fact that this audiobook is narrated by so many different actors and comedians. Celia Imrie, Julie Walters and Duncan Preston to name just a few. I love the fact that these people all had something personal to add to their section of narration and could vouch for the events they were talking about because they were there. 

This book has a typical chronological structure for a biography and so we start with Victoria's childhood and the start of her career in writing and performing and then carry on through until the end. There are plenty of personal stories from people and memories along the way but I loved learning about her early work and the struggles she had as a child and then as a teen trying to fit into education. I feel like knowing all of these things about her past made her even more relatable. 

One of the things I loved about Victoria Wood was her unabashed exploration of sex, particularly within a marriage from a female point of view and her interest in this and its inclusion in almost all of her material is explored in the book. I can't help but feel that her attitude towards female sexuality was before its time and that fact that she talks and sings about it so openly in her ketches, stand up and songs was always something I admired. 

I was blown away by her attention to detail in everything she did, although I do feel like working with her would have been its own kind of challenge and not something I'm sure I could have handled but I definitely came away from this book with a greater depth of respect and admiration for this wonderful performer. When we got the the end of the book, even though I knew it was coming, I did cry, quite a bit and so just be ready for that if you are a fan of her like I am. I really recommend this book even though it left me in tears and took up most of my days whilst I was reading it!

To order your copy now, just click the link: UK or US

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