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Book Review: 'From Byfleet to the Bush' by Jacqueline Pearce


From Byfleet to the Bush an autobiography by Jacqueline Pearce

Review by Jackie Emery


Although it was Terry Nation who decided in a flash of inspiration that the Supreme Commander of the Terran Federation should be a woman rather than a man, it was Jacqueline Pearce who suggested that Servalan's costumes should be ultra-feminine rather than military, and her acting that made the character so dangerous and fascinating. Servalan is a marvelous character, but much more so is the woman who created and defined the role.

Jacqueline Pearce's autobiography is wonderful. She takes the reader with her on her life's journey, starting with her childhood in Byfleet, via her nomadic actors' life in the UK and America to finally finding the home she always craved in Africa. She writes with great honesty, unafraid to bare all - in every sense of the word. Her childhood was unhappy, her adolescence blighted by a repressive convent school education. Despite early acting successes, her career has been overshadowed by the dark clouds of depression and mental ill-health that have dogged her entire life. However, she never comes across as self-pitying or morbid, describing her breakdowns with a refreshing matter-of-factness and a certain amount of black humour. She writes passionately of life-long friendships, long and short-term lovers and her encounters with the famous and the obscure.

Jacqueline has a lovely, lyrical writing style, often punctuated with down-to-earth asides that had me laughing out loud. An early paragraph, describing summer Sunday afternoons in glorious, almost poetic, prose concludes: If you think I'm seeing this through the rosy glow of nostalgia, where the birds always sang and the sun always shone, you're wrong; it frequently pissed down. Her descriptions of the natural world are always wonderfully evocative, while her descriptions of the people in her life and her relationships with them are deeply moving.

It should be mentioned that Jacqueline doesn't write much about Blake's 7. She admits this freely, apologises to the fans and explains the reasons behind her reticence to review what was an extremely difficult period in her life. However, the reason she gives for the change in Servalan's character between Series 2 and 3 is one that no fan could ever have imagined!

This book is a terrific read; beautifully written, honest, heartbreaking and hilarious. The story of the incredible journey of an amazing woman.

Published in 2012 by Fantom Films, From Byfleet to the Bush is available in paperback and as an audiobook read by Jacqueline Pearce.

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