In the summer of 1980, actor Simon Callow met the legendary playwrights' agent Peggy Ramsay--it was love at first sight. A strange sort of love, given that it was "between a 70-year-old woman and a 30-year-old gay man, and was never going to be consummated physically," as Callow succinctly puts it. But love it was--an intense, passionate affair that lasted several years during which Ramsay showered Callow with gifts, spiritual and material, despite his continuing relationship with his Egyptian lover, Aziz Yehia.
Like creatures from a bygone era, Ramsay and Callow were bold, huge personalities, their almost daily letter writing filled with histrionic emotion and grandiose discoursing on art and life. Callow manages to turn the letters into an elegant, riveting narrative, exploring the complex triangle between himself, Ramsay, and Aziz; Aziz's depression and eventual suicide; the affair's inevitable cooling off; and Ramsay's decline into dementia and ultimate death with a remarkable lack of sentimentality. Reading the openhearted love letters of an intensely private and at times vulnerable woman makes for some discomfort, but there is no doubting Callow's love and tenderness for his irascible subject, nor the sincerity of his emotion for her and his enduring respect and responsibility for her memory. --Alan Stewart
From Library Journal
The rarified world of the British theater is effectively evoked in veteran actor Callow's memoir of the legendary literary agent Margaret Ramsay. Based on a collection of love letters, the book hinges on an unorthodox m?nage ? trois (of sorts) among Ramsay, Callow, and his Egyptian boyfriend and relies somewhat on prurient appeal. The unlikely association between Callow, a young aspirant, and Ramsay, a seasoned professional who represented playwrights such as Joe Orton, spanned a 40-year age gap and blossomed into more than just a prot?g?-mentor relationship. Ramsay is a real character hereAvivacious and vibrant, irascible but with a generous spirit. This is a sensitive, loving portrait, but as a biography it is a little unsatisfying, paraphrasing correspondence that is occasionally pompous and overly personal. We are given an emotionalized snapshot of the protagonists, who pontificate on Art, Life, and Love but never glean any real insight into those grand themes. Callow's sincerity, however, is tangible. Recommended where interest warrants.AJayne Plymale, Univ. of Georgia, Athens
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.