Author(s): Michael Coveney
'Coveney is the only writer who could get under Smith's skin, capturing her steeliness and vulnerability' INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY From her days as a star of West End comedy and revue, Dame Maggie's path has led to international renown and numerous accolades including two Academy Awards. Recently she has been as prominent on our screens as ever, with high-profile roles as the formidable Dowager Countess of Grantham in DOWNTON ABBEY, as Professor Minerva McGonagall in the HARRY POTTER movie franchise and as the eccentric Miss Shepherd in the film version of THE LADY IN THE VAN by Alan Bennett. Yet paradoxically she remains an enigmatic figure, rarely appearing in public and carefully guarding her considerable talent. Michael Coveney's absorbing biography, drawing on personal archives, interviews and encounters with the actress, as well as conversations with immediate family and dear friends, is therefore as close as it gets to seeing the real Maggie Smith.
From early days in the theatre to Miss Jean Brodie and Downton's formidable Dowager, Maggie Smith has endeared herself to millions. This engaging and fascinating biography reveals the life and career of one of our finest actresses. WOMAN HOME A satisfying read ... [P]leasantly gossipy and a very valuable addition to the history of British theatre. -- Mary McEvoy IRISH INDEPENDENT [A] solid and admiring portrait of a beloved actor's craft and career -- Patricia Nicol INDEPENDENT The conundrum of what Smith does haunts Coveney's Maggie Smith: A Biography, on a brilliant journey from Shakespeare's Viola to J.K. Rowling's Professor McGonagall. Coveney's admiration is never in doubt, being of a rare critical type that cares for the actor's craft with infectious enthusiasm. -- Michael Joseph Chance TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT Coveney has written a magnificent book that beautifully illuminates the talent and the irreducible personality of a great artist -- Peter Craven THE AUSTRALIAN [A] revealing biography of the sublime life and loves of Maggie Smith -- Gerald Isaaman CAMDEN NEW JOURNAL BOOK OF THE WEEK DAILY MAIL BOOK OF THE WEEK - Inspiring stuff NEW magazine Michael Coveney isn't afraid to elucidate on her reputation for being difficult, but there's much more here, from a revelatory Hedda Gabler to The Lady In The Van. Coveney is the only writer who could get under Smith's skin, capturing her steeliness and vulnerability. -- Christopher Fowler INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY, Cinema Books of the Year Steeped in theatre history, and with full cooperation from Smith; her husband, actor Beverley Cross; family and colleagues, including her close friend Judi Dench, Coveney seamlessly melds Smith's personal and professional lives into an engrossing narrative ... An authoritative and perceptive portrait. KIRKUS REVIEWS Michael Coveney's affectionate [biography] provides the best account we are likely to get of this reserved grand dame, who surely stands alone in having her 'witty' elbows and wrists so often singled out for praise. EVENING STANDARD, Books of the Year Coveney enticingly lists and quotes from her most remarkable roles, and forbears to intrude on Smith's determinedly private life. Hers is a fascinating story, a true swan hatched from the unlikely nest of a dour Methodist accountant mother and a lab technician father who moved to Oxford during the war. -- Christina Hardyment THE TIMES
Michael Coveney has since 2006 been associated with the leading West End website WhatsOnStage.com. He has unprecedented access to Dame Maggie Smith's personal archives and curated the recent BFI season of her film and television work. He lives in Hampstead, north London.