Let’s Do It: The Authorised Biography of Victoria Wood
THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER
A Times, Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Radio Times, Daily Herald and FT Book of the Year
‘I was born with a warped sense of humour and when I was carried home from being born it was Coronation Day and so I was called Victoria but you are not supposed to know who wrote this anyway it is about time I unleashed my pent-up emotions in a bitter comment on the state of our society but it’s not quite me so I think I shall write a heart-warming story with laughter behind the tears and tears behind the laughter which means hysterics to you Philistines…’
From ‘Pardon?’ by Vicky Wood, Aged 14. Bury Grammar School (Girls) Magazine, 1967
In her passport Victoria Wood listed her occupation as ‘entertainer’ – and in stand-up and sketches, songs and sitcom, musicals and dramas, she became the greatest entertainer of the age. Those things that might have held her back – her lonely childhood, her crippling shyness and above all the disadvantage of being a woman in a male-run industry – she turned to her advantage to make extraordinary comedy about ordinary people living ordinary lives in ordinary bodies. She wasn’t fond of the term, but Victoria Wood truly was a national treasure – and her loss is still keenly felt.
Victoria had plenty of stories still to tell when she died in 2016, and one of those was her own autobiography. ‘I will do it one day,’ she told the author and journalist Jasper Rees. ‘It would be about my childhood, about my first few years in showbusiness, which were really interesting and would make a really nice story.’
That sadly never came to pass, so Victoria’s estate has asked Jasper Rees, who interviewed her more than anyone else, to tell her extraordinary story in full. He has been granted complete and exclusive access to Victoria’s rich archive of personal and professional material, and has conducted over 200 interviews with her family, friends and colleagues – among them Victoria’s children, her sisters, her ex-husband Geoffrey Durham, Julie Walters, Celia Imrie, Dawn French, Anne Reid, Imelda Staunton and many more.
What emerges is a portrait of a true pioneer who spoke to her audience like no one before or since.
Let's Do It is a biography that feels as unflinching and true as it is entertaining and affectionate. Rees pulls off the trick of writing a brilliant tribute while also - somehow, almost - bringing Victoria Wood back to life in all her complicated glory. -- Viv Groskop * GUARDIAN * When I met Victoria I gushed at her and she told me to stop, which was sweet and kind and saved us both! I won't gush now as per her non gushing desires, except to say that I would love people to read this beautiful book about the woman I will be forever grateful for in leading the way for me and other women in comedy and for making my life a jollier one. * Miranda Hart * There was none like her before and there's been none like her since - she was unique... I contributed to the book because I know that Jasper [Rees], who wrote it was a great friend of hers and she trusted him...and I knew that he would respect that... We weren't sitting down to be soft and fluffy about Vic, because Vic was quite spiky, quite demanding, and utterly hilarious. * Dawn French on BBC RADIO 5 LIVE * I remember first watching Victoria Wood when she was on Look North, when she would simply sing a song and play the piano, and knew then she was someone special. Decades later, I saw her show at the Albert Hall and not long after I bumped into her in our local M&S. I started to cry as I told her how amazing she was that night - I had no words for how wonderful she had been. Thankfully Jasper Rees has found the perfect words to convey Victoria's brilliance, in this meticulously researched, immersive and entertaining biography. It is a wonderful tribute to a pioneering entertainer who we all still miss so keenly. * Alison Steadman * An extraordinary, wonderful, rich biography of Victoria Wood - every bit as fascinating, challenging, and brilliant as she was. It is evident that Jasper Rees loves his subject and has been given unprecedented access to Wood's personal and professional archives. He explores Victoria's inspirations and creative processes, celebrating her genius, and never shying away from the tricky stuff. * Nina Stibbe * I love this book. I adored Victoria, and Jasper Rees has almost brought her back to life, so I highly recommend it to all her admirers who miss her desperately. Which is, of course, all of us. * Dame Esther Rantzen * The authorised biography of Victoria Wood by Jasper Rees is great - wonderfully detailed on her creative process, the graft she put in and the mechanics of how she did what she did, but losing none of the warmth and joy of what ended up on screen. Recommended. * Simon Blackwell, writer of VEEP and THE THICK OF IT * You can almost feel him riffling files, rewinding tapes, so carefully is it pieced together. Yet the reward is a 360-degree biography that transforms a beloved entertainer into a real human being, moving about a recognisable world: unhappy family home, provincial theatre, TV studio, celebrity's Highgate terrace, even, heartbreakingly, hospital room. It's a book for fans, of course, but it also documents 40 years of British entertainment, filtered through a life that stretched so much further than a few knackered bras. -- Victoria Segal * SUNDAY TIMES CULTURE * This biographer is the safest of hands, both for helpless fans like me, and to any outsiders who haven't paid attention... It does not feel intrusive because it is so richly fed with the memories of those who properly loved her, and those memories add to the store of lines to treasure... She kept us happy for years herself. I am thankful, for her and for this good biography. Might cry again now. -- Libby Purves * THE TIMES * A smashing biography. He gives a sense of what the real Victoria was like and conveys the unique qualities of her work - and provides a bridge between the two. At one point he says tactfully that the dreadful statue of Victoria in Bury shows "how hard it is to capture in bronze the bounce of her hair and the glow of her smile". At its best, this book does that in prose. -- Jake Kerridge * SUNDAY EXPRESS S MAGAZINE * Rees's biography is a must-read for her fans... This meticulously researched account of her life shows what a loss she is. -- Emma-Lee Potter * DAILY MIRROR * With meticulous thoroughness ... Let's Do It is nearly 600 pages long and copiously footnoted. Rees interviewed Wood frequently in her lifetime, spent two years on research, using Wood's own audio and written notes, and interviewed more than 200 people (from her children and perennial collaborators to occasional accompanists). It shows - this is an immersive, authoritative book... Do it, I urge you, while the mood is right. -- Emma Beddington * THE SPECTATOR * Joyous and revealing... If you're a diehard Wood fan (as I am) you'll find this account of her life wholly engrossing, and it also stands as a wonderful tribute to a pioneering entertainer and her exacting comic genius. -- Caroline Sanderson * THE BOOKSELLER, Editor's Choice * Packed with enlightening anecdotes and revealing interviews with her family and closest friends. A real treat. -- Martin Chilton * INDEPENDENT * This superb biography ensures we can't forget how revolutionary she was. -- Tanya Gold * THE OLDIE * For anyone who loves Victoria Wood, this biography - authorised by her literary estate - is a joy. It paints a rounded portrait of a genuinely nice and kind woman who could also be difficult, scathing, even ruthless. -- Christopher Stevens * DAILY MAIL * Rees is excellent on Wood's long struggle. -- Roger Lewis * SUNDAY TELEGRAPH * With exclusive access to Victoria's archive, Rees has produced this fascinating portrait of a comedy genius who became a national treasure. -- Zoe West * WOMAN & HOME * A joyous read. -- Julia Llewellyn Smith * THE MAIL ON SUNDAY * Written with the approval of family and friends this is a biography more than worthy of its much-missed subject. * THE NEW EUROPEAN * Rees's research is wide-ranging and detailed... his analysis is acute and often beautifully articulated. -- Fiona Sturges * I NEWSPAPER * This profile of the astute observer of domesticity is warm-hearted and full of detail. -- Hannah Jane Parkinson * OBSERVER * Impeccable -- Iona McLaren * THE DAILY TELEGRAPH, Books of the Year * A fascinating portrait of a comedy genius who became a national treasure. * WOMAN'S WEEKLY * exemplary... Despite the memories of laughter it evoked, I was left saddened by the thought that Wood was really making strides into a brilliant second career as a screenwriter and director when illness took her away from us. * Jonathan Coe *
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