Book Review: ‘Loitering With Intent: The Child’ by Peter O’Toole

Earlier today, I went to my university to pick my graduation gown, my marshalling card and my tickets for the graduation ceremony. My initial plan was to go there, pick the stuff quickly and go back home to do more interesting stuff. But, when I arrived, there was this very long line, so my plans obviously changed. I had brought with me this autobiography of Peter O’Toole: Loitering With  Intent that I’ve been reading since Bristol (mid-May). And, while waiting in line, I actually had time to finish it. Now that I’m back home, I think a review is in order!


Loitering With Intent: The Child is the first volume of Peter O’Toole’s memoirs. It was published in 1997. The actor talks about his childhood, teenagehood, life during the war (including his highly comprehensible hate toward Adolf Hitler), his process to enter the RADA, his early stage career, and more about his early life. And for this limited period of time, he had a lot to say (320 pages)!

My verdict: this is one of the best autobiography books I’ve read in my life. The good thing about autobiographies is that they are written the way the celebrity wants to, contains maybe more unedited anecdotes than in a biography book and, most of all, who knows Peter O’Toole better than Peter O’Toole himself?!

A young Peter O’Toole!

I remember, when the Irish-born actor died in 2013, I was quite sad about it. I hadn’t seen many of his films (still have a lot to see) and didn’t like the fact that the last great classic actors were, one by one, leaving us (Joan Fontaine passed away just the following day). Anyway, I didn’t sleep a lot on this December night thinking too much about this sad departure.

Peter O’Toole’s portrayal of Thomas Edward Lawrence in David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia (1962) is, to me one, of the most impressive examples of acting abilities. And these are not limited. He is simply fascinating to watch, almost as if he was a god or something we can not totally understand. His voice (that magical voice), his mannerisms, the way he walks, the way he interacts with the other actors, the way he embellishes the already stunning desert landscapes are the objects of a mesmerizing magnetism…! But I don’t want to talk too much about that as I’m supposed to review the film for a blogathon next July.


Anyway, when I borrowed this boo,  I wondered if he’ll be as fascinating as he seem to be on-screen. And he was! But there is a bonus: Peter O’Toole was also very human and his memoirs don’t make him appear like an “inaccessible” person. On the contrary, he sounds like someone we can rely on and who can inspire us in many ways. He writes with a humour that I had rarely encountered with autobiography books before and a highly entertaining vocabulary. Ok, I read a French version of the book (because that’s what they had at the library) so it was a translation of Peter O’Toole’s words, but I feel it was a legit one. The second volume, Loitering With Intent: The Apprentice, however, only exists in English. To come back to Peter O’Toole’s humour, I laughed a lot when I read his writing. It was both witty and adorable, but also brought back to my memory some personal anecdotes of my childhood. Peter O’Toole was a born teller as he makes an ordinary life story sound very interesting, even for those who weren’t there when it happened.

Another quality of this book is the fact that it is not just Peter O’Toole (auto)biography. Indeed, it’s also a book about his family: his mother Constance, his sister Patricia and, most of all, his father Patrick “Pat” O’Toole; a book about his friends and co-workers; and about Adolf Hitler. The Nazi leader is pretty much at the center of his life story and it’s fortunately in order to demolish him and make him sound like a completely ridiculous man (which he was). I hope nobody has objections against that! Peter O’Toole lived the war in England when he was a child and some of his stories make us realize we are pretty lucky. Well, I am. Therefore, the book is also very informative and teaches us a lot about the war in England and how life was back then. It’s a personal and historical autobiography.


Loitering with Intent: The Child is kind of written in chronological order, but the author often comes back in time or takes a break with a chapter comparing his life with Hitler’s one. Some could find it confusing. I did at some point (sometimes I was not 100% sure how approximately old he was when some event occurred), but generally it didn’t bother my reading so much.

So, should you read this book? Well, obviously yes!

I rate this book ****1/2  because it’s almost perfect!

If you haven’t read it yet, I hope this review will make you want to do so. You are in for a treat! 🙂


After picking my graduation gown and tickets at school, I went to the library to give back the book and I borrowed two more biography books: David Bowie: Strange Fascination by David Buckley (already started it – so far so good) and Carole Lombard: Twentieth- Century Star by Michelle Morgan! I hope to eventually review them as well. 🙂