Here’s another reposted book review that I wrote for Epinions.com. It was written in November 2008, and appears here as/is.
I have always admired the great actress and singer Julie Andrews, star of My Fair Lady, Mary Poppins, andThe Sound of Music. I also love to read true stories, especially biographies and autobiographies. When I spotted Julie Andrews’ autobiography, Home: A Memoir of My Early Years, I decided I had to read it. I wanted to know how this woman who has had such an enduring career in show business got her start.
Julie Andrews began life on October 1, 1935 on Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, England, UK. Her mother was an aspiring vaudevillian actress and musician and her father was a teacher. She was born Julia Elizabeth Wells, but her name was later changed to Julie Andrews when her mother got remarried to Ted Andrews, a singer and actor. Apparently, it was thought that the name Julie flowed better with her new last name than did Julia. Julie Andrews muses that she never knew how her father felt about the name change but concedes that he must have been hurt.
Using a very intimate writing style, Andrews reveals how she grew up the product of a broken home, with a mother who drank too much and enjoyed too many extramarital affairs. Along with this turbulent home life, Julie Andrews also lived through the worst years of World War II. She includes some memories of those times, when German invasions were common and feared. She writes of hearing air raid sirens and sharp warnings from the warden who passed by. She vividly describes hiding in subway stations for safety during bombing raids and comments that her stepfather, Ted Andrews, once forgot his guitar. The guitar was very precious, since it provided him his livelihood. He managed to retrieve it and entertained the masses in the subway station. I found Andrews’ tales about living through World War II especially interesting, since I wasn’t around during that time and am now living in a place where it still leaves an enduring impression.
I was also interested in reading Julie Andrews’ life story because I am a singer. Julie Andrews is, of course, a wonderful singer. She was discovered by her stepfather, who revealed her powerful four octave voice and started giving her singing lessons. Andrews’ mother was a brilliant accompanist. It wasn’t long before Julie was a part of their act. Not long after she became part of the act, she became its star, complete with top billing.
Naturally, Julie Andrews’ vocal training and performances led to later training with a string of eccentric but excellent teachers. I think I would have enjoyed reading about these experiences even if I weren’t myself a singer. Andrews’ writing makes them come alive. Since I do sing, I found I could relate a bit to her experiences. Andrews also reveals that she has perfect pitch, which I also have; it was interesting to read about that as well.
Julie Andrews made her Broadway debut in 1954, when she was 19 years old. She was very successful in her role in The Boy Friend, which led to one of her best known Broadway roles as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. I found Andrews’ comments about My Fair Lady fascinating, especially as she revealed tidbits about the great actor, Rex Harrison, who played Professor Higgins. Andrews also dishes about working with Richard Burton, who was apparently very crass and egotistical.
I appreciated Andrews’ reflections on her family members. She writes about her mother, stepfather, and father, of course. She also includes information about her many siblings, stepmother, and her daughter. Naturally, she also writes about her first marriage to Tony Walton. Andrews even includes a “shocker” about her family that I wasn’t expecting. I won’t reveal it here because I don’t want to spoil it, but I will remark that again, I found myself relating to her a bit. Suffice it to say, it can be very tough living in a step situation. It’s also tough living with an alcoholic. Julie Andrews managed to do both and flourish.
Home includes two generous black and white photo sections, with pictures of her parents and grandparents as well as Andrews herself as a little girl. There are also photographs of Andrews in her roles. Unfortunately, Andrews rather abruptly ends this part of her life story at 1962, just as she was on verge of making Mary Poppins for Walt Disney. I was disappointed at the end of this book, because I wanted to know more about her later years. I hope she comes out with a sequel.
In any case, I think Home: A Memoir of My Early Years is worthwhile reading for anyone who enjoys a good memoir. Julie Andrews writes as if she’s sitting down and talking with her readers. I could practically hear her chirpy voice in my ears as I read her very personal and revealing narrative. I wish this book hadn’t ended quite as abruptly as it did, but as it is, she had a lot to write about during the first 27 years of her life. It leaves me hoping that her next book will be just as satisfying.
As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.