Review - Benedict Cumberbatch, In Transition: An Unauthorised Performance Biography by Lynnette Porter

Please note that this review is based on a preview copy of the book and aspects of it may have changed by the time it becomes available.

Release date: June 10th 2013

I was recently supplied with a preview copy of the “Performance biography” of Benedict Cumberbatch and asked for my thoughts on it. The problem is that it is a difficult thing for me to review.

Why, you might ask. Well it’s simple. I am a person who is very knowledgeable on Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle. I have penned four books on the subject, the latter two being biographical accounts but this book is not a Sherlockian one and therein lies the problem.
Cumberbatch in Marple
I think it is fair to say that Benedict Cumberbatch is a fine actor and that he largely has his Sherlock portrayal to thank for his current popularity and recent film work. Many of his young (and not so young) fans follow everything that he does as can be seen from the legion of Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr efforts that seem to revolve around him and his co-star Martin Freeman. Personally however my interest in him (currently) begins and ends with Sherlock (and his excellent turn in Marple). If he were to pen an autobiography in the future (perhaps any time past the age of fifty) I would be very interested in reading it but that is not what this is in the sense that it is not a “proper” biography and it is not by him personally or anyone with proper inside knowledge.

My reading of the book has shown me that a lot of research has gone into it. It is far from the Wikipedia “cut ‘n’ paste” that some have predicted. For anyone interested in the minutiae of Cumberbatch’s performances this will be very much on the wish list. I have no doubt that copies of this book will be snapped up by his fans – even those who have questioned the need for it through social media – such is the appetite for all things Benedict.

As we are more used to seeing him
If it has one flaw it is that it does come across as a bit reference-like in parts. I very much doubt you would pick it up and read it from end-to-end. It is more of a book that you would dip-into (well it was for me). In fact it could well prove to be of significant use to future biographers of Cumberbatch. Regrettably, aside from the author’s speculations and personal commentary, I found it quite a dry read containing a fair amount of plain and simple (or raw) data. Producing an arid read is something I have been accused of myself and it may not strike all readers the same way. Perhaps I was pre-disposed to find it that way and a hard-core Benedict fan would lap it all up. Time – and Amazon reviews – will tell.

The bottom line is that if you are a fan of all (or most) of Benedict Cumberbatch's work to-date you will find this an interesting work. If, however, your interest in his work is confined to a sub-set of his work (or maybe just Sherlock) you might wish to wait for the traditional biography. In view of this I would rate the book twice.

For the person primarily interested in his Sherlock career:

For the person interested in his entire body of work:

For more information on Arthur Conan Doyle and his time at Undershaw please refer to my book, An Entirely New Country which is available through all good bookstores including Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Classic Specialities, and in all electronic formats including iTunes, Kobo, Nook and Kindle .

The Norwood Author is available from all good bookstores, in many formats worldwide including Waterstones UK, Amazon UK,  Amazon USA, Barnes and Noble, Amazon Kindle, iBooks for the iPad/iPhone, Kobo Books, Nook.

Close to Holmes is available from all good bookstores, in many formats worldwide including Amazon USABarnes and NobleAmazon UKWaterstones UKAmazon KindleKoboNook  and iBooks for the iPad/iPhone.

Eliminate the Impossible is available from all good bookstores, in many formats worldwide including Amazon USA, Barnes and Noble, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK, Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Nook and iBooks for the iPad/iPhone.

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