Cover image for The secret woman : a life of Peggy Ashcroft
The secret woman : a life of Peggy Ashcroft
O'Connor, Garry.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
London : Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1997.
Physical Description:
xiii, 236 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
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Format :


Call Number
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PN2598.A827 O36 1997 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Choice Review

In a stage career spanning 50 years, Ashcroft played an almost infinite variety of roles, which ranged from Shakespeare (notably Juliet and Cleopatra) and Sheridan to Ibsen and Chekhov and on to Beckett and beyond. But she is best remembered for two film portrayals of elderly Englishwomen in India: Barbie Batchelor in The Jewel in the Crown and Mrs. Moore in A Passage to India. Paradoxically, this restrained, thoughtful, and disciplined performer led an off-stage life of numerous affairs, amours, affections, and, almost incidentally, three failed marriages. Michael Billington wrote Peggy Ashcroft (1988), an admirably readable and informative account of her career (and with more and better photographs than O'Connor's), shortly before Ashcroft's death in 1991, and he is understandably reticent about his subject's private life. However, in attempting to expose "the secret woman," O'Connor presents an uneasy mix of gossipy anecdote (though gossip of John Gielgud always makes for good reading), jejune psychoanalyzing, and conventional descriptions of productions. He may have been hampered to some extent by the unwillingness of Ashcroft's children to allow him to quote from her letters in either private or public collections, but perhaps the private Ashcroft was simply too enigmatic, too contradictory, too elusive to yield to any coherent portrait. Not a useful purchase for academic libraries. J. Ellis formerly, Mount Holyoke College