Whatever your opinion of Billy Connolly, his life has been an epic tale of controversy and hilarity, tragedy and comedy. From his working class roots in Glasgow he has worked his way to the top, and now enjoys huge worldwide acclaim and lives a dream lifestyle. From welding to folk singing to comedy to writing to acting, Billy has proved beyond doubt his versatility and sheer determination. And if anyone knows that better than him, it's his wife, Pamela, who will give us an insiders view of this hugely talented musician, singer, tv presenter, comdedian and actor. We will hear about the highs and the lows, the good times and the bad and she will take us behind-the-scenes of the films and tv shows he has been in and the sell-out tours that are so unmissable so that we get to see something of the real Billy Connolly.
Billy Connolly is loud, hilarious and contradictory. His biography, written by his wife, former comedian and practising psychotherapist Pamela Stephenson, is pretty much the same. Over the years Connolly has grown from Glasgow shipyard welder to folk-singing beardy hard man (yes there is such a thing) to darling of the good and great (or at least famous) around the world. That he is so many things to so many people while in no way compromising his core self can only be good. It would be no mean feat for Stephenson, then, to pen a history to that would satisfy Connolly audiences of fans and contemporaries from all periods of his life's journey. In most places, but in truth, not all, the author manages to do this well.
The first half of the biography is somewhat anthropological in tone. Not surprisingly, a post-war Glasgow upbringing is somewhat alien to the antipodean author and Stephenson errs towards Angela's Ashes intonation as she describes her husband's tenement childhood (Scots readers may also find her regular translation of seemingly self-explanatory Scots phrases--which Connolly would use--obtuse). In contrast her examination of her experience of living with the comedian and his life from that point on is much better. Anecdotes which Connolly uses in his live shows pepper the text and laughs are raised as he tells of the time he was mistaken as a drug dealer on Speyside, of his cheeky friendships with cinema's elite and even through the more difficult times; the difficulty of balancing an almost manic humour with a troubled life. Pages turn quickly as we grow to understand more of what makes the man tick.
Certainly fans of Billy Connolly will enjoy this book. It is not perfect but it is certainly entertaining and should fill a gap in the market until Billy--with his half-remembered stories and off-centre view of the world--decides to let us into his head as well as his history. There's surely one ideal way to do this and that's by writing his story himself. --Helen Lamont