Vanessa Redgrave is not the star of the most touching scene in her autobiography—that distinction belongs to another gifted actress, Natasha Richardson, her daughter. One night 20 years ago when Natasha was about 12, she pleaded with her mother to stop traveling and working so much for various political causes and spend more time at home in London with her and her younger sister Joely. "I tried to explain that our political struggle was for her future and that of all the children of her generation," Redgrave writes. But Natasha was not convinced, pointing out that she and Joely needed Redgrave as a mother now—not in some politically more agreeable future. Redgrave listened but decided that she could not rein in her activism.
Redgrave's autobiography suffers from too many of these pious moments and too few honest descriptions of her relationships with the real people in her life. No doubt Redgrave is pleased with the book she has written—but anyone curious about her life will find that, like most tracts, it is preachy, boring and self-righteous. (Random House, $25)