Book Review: Ingrid Bergman, My Story (1981)

I might have taken forever to read Ingrid Bergman’s biography, but that’s not because I didn’t like it. Oh no, ar from it! Actually, I don’t think I have anything bad to say about it. Reading it was pure delight. This book is GOLD.

I finished this book last autumn.

This wasn’t the first Ingrid Bergman’s biography I was reading. I had already read a biography by Bertrand Meyer-Stabler, La véritable Ingrid Bergman, a book originally published in French. It’s a book I also highly recommend. It was written with respect and provide good, completed and well-detailed information. However, I’m not sure if it has been published in English.

I was made aware of this autobiography by my friend from Budapest who is also a fan of the Swedish actress. I was glad to find a copy late during the summer when I was at Montreal’s National Library. The autobiography was co-written by Ingrid Bergman and Alan Burgess. At first, I thought the alternation between chapters written in the first person and the then in the third person was a bit weird but I easily got used to it. Actually, Burgess passages allow us to have an external point of view on the subject. And you have plenty of Ingrid telling us about her life. So, it’s pretty satisfying.

I was also afraid I wouldn’t learn anything new since I had read many things about Ingrid before (including that biography I was mentioning) but I was completely wrong. First of all, seeing things through Ingrid’s eyes is completely different. And as it is a pretty voluminous book (over 500 pages), there surely were details I was not aware of. A passage that particularly struck me was when Ingrid was talking about Isabella Rossellini’s scoliosis and all the treatments she had to have. All I knew was basically that Ingrid took a year off work to take care of her daughter, but I didn’t know what a difficult time it had been for both the mother and her daughter, for Isabella who suffered from the pain created by scoliosis and the rather archaics treatments, and for Ingrid who had to see her daughter suffer.

The book also gave me the occasion to understand better the Rossellini-Bergman’s scandal. This was complicated. Very complicated. But, somehow, things are clearer now. I somehow thought Ingrid would put the blame on other people, but far from it. She was blaming herself more than anything else. Yes, on some occasions she might have put the priority on her career over her children, but, nevertheless, she was there for them. Ingrid’s acting career was her whole life, she was passionated by it, but it involved a lot of sacrifices. Concerning the scandal, the book also puts the light on her relationship with her first husband Petter Lindström and it’s made pretty clear that they should have divorced like civilized people as it was Ingrid’s wish, this even before she met Rossellini. As for her relationship with Rossellini, it was not easy either (they were both very different characters) but I think it brought interesting things in her life.

Ingrid tells us about the joys of her life, what she loved, her constant battles. She was a strong woman. She sadly was diagnosed from cancer in 1974 and also tells us about it in her book. She is honest about it but doesn’t try to scare us either. Actually, she was still alive when the book was published and she remained optimistic. She pretty much concludes by telling us that she hopes to play more and more roles in the futures. She doesn’t tell us “I will probably die soon.” She probably knew it, but I think she preferred to see the good side of life. That last chapter is a very beautiful and nostalgic one.

Ingrid Bergman, My Story has everything to satisfy a fan. It’s true, fascinating and at the image of our Ingrid. I give it five stars ***** because, as I said, I really haven’t got anything bad to say about it. This being said, I hope you’ll be convinced to read it!

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