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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

The best new celebrity memoirs to buy for Christmas 2021

What do celebs do when lockdown strikes and all their engagements are cancelled? Well, of course, troupers that they are, they grit their teeth and write books. And, as it turns out, some of them are good at it and some aren’t. Of the current crop, the one who is outstandingly good is Dame Eileen Atkins.

In Will She Do? (Virago, £18.99) she makes no attempt to be likable, but fearlessly presents herself as a prickly, chippy, hot-tempered ingrate with a truly warped bitterness against her mother. Guilty of being working class and bringing her daughter up on a council estate in Tottenham, Atkins’s mother sent Eileen to dance classes and made her perform “shows” for working men’s clubs that were designed to appeal to dirty old men. To enhance Baby Eileen’s cuteness she was taught to do “toe taps” – tap dances performed en pointe – which had a disastrous effect on her growing feet. She has suffered from terrible bunions all her life and has to wear sandals.

The book ends when, aged 32, Atkins achieves her breakthrough in The Killing of Sister George, and is finally – a bit late in her view – accepted as the seriously great actress she is. But she is still, she admits, a difficult so-and-so who warns directors from the outset that if they annoy her, she will walk off the set. I hope she does walk – I want her to write more books.

Another difficult customer is Sharon Stone whose The Beauty of Living Twice (Atlantic, £18.99) is an account of her hardscrabble upbringing in hillbilly Pennsylvania, her modelling career and struggles in Hollywood and her eventual success when she crossed her legs so unforgettably in Basic Instinct.

She was considered difficult because, she says, she refused to sleep with her directors or co-stars – “Sex, not just sexuality on-screen, has long been expected in my business.” And then in 2001 she suffered a near-fatal stroke that meant she lost many things – her career, her savings, her marriage, “and a kind of luminous beauty that I hadn’t even realised I’d had.” But she’s a tough cookie with a wonderfully sardonic sense of humour who wastes little time on self-pity.

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