This isn’t my copy of this book, nor is it the edition I linked to, but can we just take a moment to praise the Folio company for producing a physical book so very suited to its subject matter? It’s not simply the jaunty cover art – stylish down to the font – but the book itself has an eggshell textured cover that feels elegant, expensive, classy. The pages are thick, deceptively so; the memoir only reaches 300 pages by virtue of its index but the book seems like it has much more to say than it actually contains. The physical object mirrors the story inside it; it’s polished yet irreverent but less substantial than it pretends to be.
David Niven’s memoir just begs to be read over a martini in a smoking jacket. He very much seems to be the slick bon vivant he played so often, and if his autobiography seems a bit manufactured, with the bad bits glossed over and the bon mots too good to be true, it simply adds to the feeling of being at a boozy dinner party with the man. This is compounded by Niven recounting his exploits with friends as though the reader should be familiar with them all, sometimes you lose the thread of who he is writing about from all the nicknames and breezy introductions. (There may be an element of lost celebrity in this as well; I recognized many names but won’t pretend I’m an expert in 1940-1960s cinema.) But who cares how true it all is, or who exactly did or said what when the tale is this harmless and enjoyable? A fun, brisk read, but a definite work of style over substance.