As I already have John Miller's biography of Dame Judi Dench, I debated getting the newly-released (as of the date of writing) Scenes from My Life, which I assumed was Dame Judi's autobiography and which I thought might be somewhat repetitious. I needn't have worried, for this is, in essence, a photo album annotated with brief anecdotes or fond memories concerning each photo. This is a beautiful, slightly oversized 223-page hardcover, which is printed on heavy, photo-quality paper and is packed with quality colour and black-and-white photos on every page with very little text.
Dame Judi is generous in sharing with us a number of personal photographs. Though there are shots of her at various ages and stages in her life and career, there are not many childhood family photos (sadly, she lost most of her personal photo collection in a house fire). Still, she has managed to amass a nice assortment. There are photos of her with her late-husband, actor Michael Williams, with their daughter Finty, with grandson Sam, and with her darling and obviously much-loved little shih tzu (photos of whom I noticed even adorn her dressing room mirror in one shot!). Though the majority of photos are scenes of Judi in her professional capacity, there are as many "off stage" photos (ie. behind-the-scenes shots, dressing room shots, etc.) as their are stills from films or photos taken on stage.
The book is divided into eleven chapters, beginning with "My Family and other animals." The next seven chapters are a visual chronology of Dame Judi's roles on stage from the fifties through to the nineties. Chapters nine and ten cover Dame Judi's roles on screen (both on television and on film). The final chapter, entitled "Some Off-Duty Moments," brings the book full circle with a few more spatterings of personal photos.
Dame Judi is reputed to be a lovely person, and her wonderful sense of humour is apparent throughout. With so many photos and so little text, I suppose one would best describe this as a "coffee table" book. Certainly, it doesn't take long to read (and is well suited to being picked up and put down), but the nicest thing about it is the feeling one gets while going through the book, for it's almost as if Judi Dench herself is sitting with us, giving us a guided tour as we look through her photo album.
In conclusion, this is a lovely book which is sure to be enjoyed by fans of Dame Judi Dench, whether one is an avid reader or not, and it's the sort of book that is a pleasure to return to again and again. Highly recommended to all fans of this lovely, talented, and very successful Oscar-winning actress.