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William Miller

Gloucester Crescent

Me, My Dad and Other Grown-Ups

Book review by Anthony Campbell. The review is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.
Gloucester Crescent and its neighbouring streets at the foot of Primrose Hill in north London was a district populated after the second world war by a remarkable number of literary and artistic people. Prominent among these were Jonathan Miller and his family. In this memoir Jonathan's second son William gives us a lively account of what it was like to grow up in this environment. In many ways it was a privileged existence and the early chapters provide an idyllic picture of a childhood spent running wild with friends and climbing over the walls between the gardens to participate freely in the lives of the neighbours, all this against a background of clicking typewriters as the adults worked at their books.

A change in tone occurs when William leaves his primary school and starts at Pimlico School, a state school. (Jonathan and his friends disapproved of private schooling, which they had had themselves, on ideological grounds.) Pimlico was strong on music teaching, which is what attracted William, who was gifted musically, but unfortunately there was a lot of systematic bullying at the school and this made William's life miserable. Eventually, with his mother's help, he managed to overcome his father's reluctance and transferred to Bedales, an ultra-liberal boarding school He was happy here in his final two years of schooling, apart from his inability to cope with studying science.

Jonathan had always regretted abandoning the practice of medicine to pursue his other interests, and it had become accepted by all concerned that William would be a doctor. However, he was not academically inclined and any chance there might have been that he would achieve the necessary A-level grades in science were effectively destroyed by his father's interference. Jonathan said that the textbooks William was supposed to read were rubbish and insisted he read other books instead, thus muddling him beyond any hope of redemption. After failing to achieve the necessary grades William renounced any intention of becoming a doctor and his life took a different direction.

This is an enjoyable book which gives a vivid and unusual picture of Jonathan Miller and his friends. There is plenty of comedy; I'd particularly recommend the account of an outing to the theatre with Princess Margaret, whose daughter William had got to know at Bedales.

This book overlaps a little with Nina Stibbe's memoir Love, Nina, which has the same setting and time frame and in which Jonathan Miller appears briefly.


%T Gloucester Crescent
%S Me, My Dad and Other Grown-Ups
%A Miller, William
%I Profile Books
%C London
%D 2018
%G eISBN 978 1 78283440 3
%P 338pp
%K memoir
%O illustrated; kindle version, downloaded from Amazon 2021

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