White Cargo: A memoir
3 journalers for this copy...
Felicity Kendal began writing these richly entertaining and deeply honest memoirs at her father's bedside as he lay in a coma. As she moves hauntingly between the present and the past, Felicity Kendal recaptures her magical childhood in India, her complex relationship with her father and the rest of the family, her love affairs and the acting career that led to her being recognized as one of the outstanding actresses of her generation.
'A remarkable first book about acting, travelling, exile, loving and losing; a book about families and, above all, a book about fathers and daughters.' Angela Lambert, Good Housekeeping.
The majority of 'White Cargo', however, concerns Felicity Kendal's childhood, touring around India with her parents' rep company, Shakespeareana. As such, it's a fascinating insight into the lives of a touring theatre company. Although set in India, it's less about the country than about the company and the family, all of whom were involved in theatre and acting. I also hadn't realised that Felicity Kendal's sister was a famous actress and married to a later Bollywood star, Shashi Kapoor.
The whole book is very well written, perhaps not surprising for somebody brought up from early childhood with plays by Shakespeare and the like. I particularly liked this poignant passage about her father at the end of his life: "To mourn or not to mourn. That is the bloody question. Are you dead or not? You are in a way, though of course not physically. I look and think of you now as someone other than the father I had before. This is a shadow of what was, merely a shell, a precious shell that must be treated with care, but an empty shell. You have long since gone. You came into this world with all the paraphernalia that you need now: the liquid food, the nappies, the nursing. It was done then in celebration. How very sad that when it ends up the same way, at the end of a paltry eighty-eight years, it is done out of pity."
I loved and sympathised with her descriptions of her attitude to becoming a wife and housewife: "I threw myself into the 'part' of wife, cook, cleaner, provider, as if it were a job that would last only for the run of the play. I expected rave reviews if I did well, and time off when I was tied. I was badly miscast. . . . After the first hot flush of excitement at housework, the dullness of it was surprising, and I could not for the life of me comprehend why anyone should want someone else to do it for them as a lifetime's work without payment."
Felicity Kendal's much-loved older sister Jennifer died of cancer, and I agree entirely with Felicity's view of the tendency of people to talk of "fighting" cancer: "I dislike the term 'fight': it implies winning or losing, and, when faced with a terminal illness, the burden of being told to fight can be as intolerable as realizing on your deathbed that you 'lost'. She was sick with cancer, she was ill, she got worse, she died. It's as simple as that. Except, of course, that it isn't."
All in all, a fascinating insight into theatre, family and friendship, well-written and enjoyable.
WILD RELEASE NOTES:
- The Ultimate Challenge - read and release books, with extra points for a monthly theme
- Reduce Mount TBR (To Be Read) - read and release books on the TBR list since before the end of the previous year. My reading goal is 36 books.