In this age, where there appear to be more and more people obsessed with being "famous for being famous", and an unfortunate group who follow their every, underwhelming move, MIXED FANCIES arrived in my post box recently.
Brenda Blethyn is one of those actresses you undoubtedly have seen in something.... turning to the back of the book first it was rather surprising to see that so far she has appeared in around 27 movies, 32 TV shows (including Rumpole and Maigret for we mystery fans) and a similar number of theatre productions. Suddenly you realise that she's not overtly famous for doing an enormous amount!
MIXED FANCIES is the story of Brenda Bottle, youngest of 9 children, born to a poor family in Ramsgate in 1940's England. Leaving school young - as with the rest of her siblings - earning a living was a priority, Brenda worked as a secretary. She met and married her husband when very young, the marriage was over by the time she was twenty-seven. Taking a risk, based on the belief of others that she really had talent, she used what little money she had saved and enrolled at Guildford Drama School. Before long she had an ongoing career as one of England's leading character actresses, a new and long-term relationship, Oscar nominations, Golden Globe awards and international recognition.
Underpinning everything is Brenda's strong sense of family - her parents, her siblings and childhood friends and cousins hold Brenda Blethyn firmly to the ground, creating a woman who is talented, capable, very funny, engaging and very human.
What MIXED FANCIES says most strongly is that it's the relationships that Brenda has built up with the people around her that matter most to her. The ongoing obvious love and affection that she had for her parents and for her brothers and sisters is touching, as is their support and understanding for her. One of the best parts of the book is the humour. There's the story she tells about ringing her long-time partner one night, homesick when overseas, to propose marriage to him. His response? "Who is This?". There's the final quotation in the book "I showed some of this book to Gina, my friend who does my ironing. She was very complimentary, saying, 'Coo that's t'rific Bren. But just imagine though if any o' that was true!'"
You're not going to get any of the standard Hollywood, famous for being famous style gossip in MIXED FANCIES. You're not going to get somebody dishing the dirt on years in show business, you're not going to get a warts and all "how I did bad and survived" story. What you are going to get is a lovely, simple, touching story about a poor little girl from Ramsgate England who did good and stayed true.