One of the first real signs of emotion in Dame Judi Dench’s memoir And Furthermore, comes nearly 150 pages in, when she recounts her outrage over a journalist asking her where and to whom she lost her virginity: “I couldn’t believe my ears,” Dench huffs. “I vowed I would never expose myself again to such offensive questioning, and nor have I.” Her feelings on journalistic nosiness come up again near the end of the book in more detail, as she complains about having to “sit and answer questions about what you think of the part, why you wanted to play the part, and I think that’s none of the public’s business. Why should you know the ins and outs of everything?… In any case, I never know why I’ve done something, it’s for lots of reasons. I want to keep a quiet portion inside that is my own business, and not anybody else’s.”
Taken together, those sentiments against personal revelation or discussion of craft go a long way toward explaining the dry breeziness of And Furthermore, which amounts to little more than an extensive, lightly annotated résumé of Dench’s illustrious decades-long career onstage and in television and film. It’s exhaustive in its thoroughness about titles, roles, theaters, and co-stars—the latter often reeled off in programmatic who-played-what lists—but personal insight is rare. Dench tells plenty of anecdotes, particularly about her stage days, but they’re often no more than a frustratingly oblique sentence or two. The title page credits the book to “Judi Dench as told to John Miller,” and the contents do read like dictation, with stories told in breathless run-ons that offer a sense of cheer and good humor without necessarily letting readers in on the jokes: One complete story about her ’70s appearance in The Merchant Of Venice runs: “I had this idea of a wig for Portia with lots of curls, and John Neville came one night, I had not seem him for years, and he knocked at my dressing room, put his head round the door and just said, ‘Hello, Bubbles,’ that was all he said, and quite right too.”
While And Furthermore sticks to the shallows in its look at Dench’s life—she explains in the preface that the book is only intended to fill the gaps left by Miller’s several other books about her—it does get across a sense of her actual voice, a brisk, classy, distinctly upper-crust British tone that implies a great deal of laughter and joy reserved mostly for expression among a few close family and friends. She hints at that humor in her brief stories about pranks and in-jokes during theater productions, and similarly hints at a deeper inner life by occasionally admitting she enjoyed being in a particular play, or got excited while riding in a helicopter for one of her roles as M in the James Bond franchise. But mostly, And Furthermore is a book-length illustration of another of Dench’s moments of asperity toward the press, in which a paparazzo follows her to photograph her shopping and eating lunch: “I don’t see how that is interesting, for one thing,” she sighs, “and I really don’t think that is anybody else’s business.” With all deference to her fascinating career and her inimitable presence onscreen, her attitude that no one should find her life interesting contributes mightily toward her making it seem much less interesting.