Everything and Nothing, by Heather Mitchell

Everything and Nothing, by Heather MitchellI’ve never met Heather Mitchell, although we have quite a few friends, acquaintances and colleagues in common.

I have, though, been aware of her more than 40 years, through her acting work in theatre, film and television.

She’s always seemed to me to stand out, a luminous and beautiful presence in a truly impressive body of work.

I wish I had seen her most recent theatrical tour de force as Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the one-hander RBG: Of Many, One – and even more so after reading this book.

Everything and Nothing is not, however, an actor’s memoir, so often just a collection of reminiscences and anecdotes about shows ands other actors. Beautifully written, this is a book about growing up, a family history filled with love and tragedy, parents and children, reflections on choices made and unchosen events that changed lives.

That Mitchell is one of Australia’s best known and most familiar actresses is almost by the way, except for the way the uncertainty of that profession affected her family life and created lasting friendships.

Quite apart from her work on stage and screen, she has led a life both extraordinary and ordinary, magical and mundane, fortunate and unfortunate, and she recounts it all in a deeply personal style that is so engaging I could literally hardly put it down. I started it on a Saturday afternoon and finished it on Sunday morning.

Unflinching in telling her family’s story, not least in detailing the confronting, heartbreaking turns of events that many would have great trouble sharing, she looks deeply into joys and terrors from childhood to parenthood, bringing us along as she tries to find insight and meaning in it all.

Along the way, in Everything and Nothing, Heather Mitchell creates an indelible, vividly crafted portrait of Sydney from the 1970s to now, her remarkable family and, especially, herself.

Highly recommended.

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