Our Betty: Scenes from my Life by Liz Smith

Our Betty

Simon & Schuster UK| New Ed edition (5 Mar. 2007)|240 pages|Library book|3*

Description from Goodreads:

Liz Smith is one of Britain’s much loved character actresses. This is her life story – from her cosseted yet lonely childhood with her beloved grandparents, through the war, marriage and children, divorce and poverty, long years working in dead-end jobs to her big break at the age of fifty.

From the back cover:

In her brilliantly quirky memoirs Liz Smith tells the hanuting story of her bitter-sweet pre-war childhood’ Daily Mail

These evocative scenes from Lincolnshire life are as good as anything in a Beryl Bainbridge novel. Liz Smith … is our greatest character actress. Her genius is to give all those grotesques and cartoons a measure of her own perky, quirky nature and generous soul. Daily Express

Typically idiosyncratic …shot through with shafts of broad comedy. It’s difficult not to gobble it all up in one go. Sunday Telegraph

From Wikipedia:

Betty Gleadle MBE (11 December 1921 – 24 December 2016), known by the stage name Liz Smith, was an English character actress, known for her roles in BBC sitcoms, including as Annie Brandon in I Didn’t Know You Cared (1975–79), the sisters Bette and Belle in 2point4 Children (1991–99), Letitia Cropley in The Vicar of Dibley (1994–96) and Norma Speakman (“Nana”) in The Royle Family (1998–2006). She also played Zillah in Lark Rise to Candleford (2008) and won the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for the 1984 film A Private Function.

My thoughts:

I loved the first part of this book as Liz Smith recalls scenes from her childhood. She was born almost a century ago now and the pictures she paints of her childhood in her words and in her little pen and ink sketches reveal a world so far removed from life as we know it today. She gives an excellent portrait of life between the two world wars. Her mother died when she was two and when she was seven her father left home and she never saw him again. She was brought up by her grandparents.

She writes in short sections telling about her home, how she loved going to the pictures, about the neighbours and the shops, about Christmas, the games she played, her first day at school, summer days, riding her bicycle, learning to be a dressmaker and then what she did during WW2 and her life after the war and becoming an actress.

I had thought before I read the book that it would have been all about her life as an actress, but I’m glad it isn’t. Although I was interested to read about the people she worked with in the various parts she played it was no where nearly as fascinating to me as her early years. It is quirky, funny in parts but also sad and moving.

Reading challenges: this is the 12th library book I’ve read this year and completes my Virtual Mount TBR challenge for the year.

2 thoughts on “Our Betty: Scenes from my Life by Liz Smith

  1. I agree with you, Margaret, that the information on an actor’s background – especially early background – can be more interesting than that actors’s roles, cast-mates, etc. I think that’s especially true in a case like this, where the background spans a long, fascinating time. And it sounds well-written, too, which is even better. Glad you liked this.

    Liked by 1 person

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