David Thomson's book should be read by anyone who cares for film because he has encyclopedic knowledge of the medium, based on the lifetime passion he describes so eloquently. It is a fitting companion to his 'Biographical Dictionary of Film,' which is also a vital compendium of information about actors (with a few singular omissions that, to me, remain inexplicable).
Thomson traces his childhood life in London's Streatham district during WWII and goes on to explain how his passion for sports, theatre and film arose. His anecdotal material is fascinating, for example in describing what it was like to go as a child to Chelsea soccer games with immense crowds of adults, and his views of Orson Welles and his time in London in 1955, but there are so many rich and revealing references that the reader will have to make these lovely discoveries for himself or herself.
The only singular error I found in his wartime descriptions was his inability to distinguish between the V1 'Buzz Bomb,' or 'Doodlebug,' a winged, unmanned device sent across the channel by the thousands whose burping motor cut out before it glided down to attack indiscriminately, and the V2 rocket, also an indiscriminate terror weapon, which arrived unannounced--yes, I, too was there at the time and saw these horrors close up (the V2's designer, Werner Von Braun, came to the US after WWII and headed the rocket systems essential to the space program).
The inner charm of the book is his surprising fictional character, his 'sister' Sally, who speaks 'her' mind candidly and doesn't give an inch to her actual, real-life brother David. With Thomson's skills and contacts, he should write her into a screenplay and get it produced so that we could all enjoy her. She's a keeper, potty mouth and all.
The singular omission from the book, which reduces my five-star rating to four stars, is the lack of an index that would have permitted the reader to find and follow up on the people he describes.