The Oldie - - BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR -

WIL­LIAM MILLER Pro­file, 338pp, £14.99, Oldie price £10.36 inc p&p

The son of Dr Jonathan Miller (writer, the­atre di­rec­tor, and Lefty sage) and Rachel Miller (a GP), the au­thor grew up in an af­flu­ent street in Cam­den in the 1970s and 80s, where his neigh­bours in­cluded play­wrights Alan Ben­nett and Michael Frayn, bi­og­ra­pher Claire To­ma­lin, and philoso­pher AJ ‘Fred­die’ Ayer. ‘This is a mem­oir with a street as its hero,’ wrote Susie Boyt in the Fi­nan­cial Times. ‘Glouces­ter Cres­cent, a hand­some thor­ough­fare of early Vic­to­rian houses, was a sort of Brook­side for the lead­ing left­wing in­tel­lec­tu­als of the day, a street whose res­i­dents ate, drank and slept books, a street that brimmed with sky-high IQS and tubs of tara­masalata, with a sound­track of com­pet­i­tive typ­ing.’

Yet ‘at the emo­tional heart of this book stands the some­times painful re­la­tion­ship be­tween Miller and his fa­ther, whose high se­ri­ous­ness and bouts of de­spair present an ob­sta­cle to in­ti­macy. The lives of Miller se­nior’s chil­dren can seem be­yond him and be­neath him; he wanted, Miller ju­nior says, a fam­ily that would, “if they can’t talk about some­thing in­tel­li­gent, sit in si­lence and let him do the talk­ing so he can lec­ture us about Charles Dick­ens or what the Ger­mans did to ev­ery­one in the war”.’ Wil­liam Miller, now in his mid-fifties, pro­duces Nigella Law­son’s cook­ery pro­grammes and is liv­ing in Glouces­ter Cres­cent again, in a house of his own. ‘Told in a naïve prose that shifts be­tween past and present tenses,’ wrote Amanda Craig in the Ob­server, it is ‘stuffed with hi­lar­i­ous literary gos­sip and anec­dote’.

Jonathan Miller and his son Wil­liam

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