I am convinced that any baby boomer who does not admit to having had a bit of a crush on Julie Andrews is lying. I recall even as a toddler how I begged my parents to let me see Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music multiple times only to enjoy those movies again in sing-along versions forty years later. The crispness of her vocal delivery and the angularity of her wholesome appeal just seemed right before the counter-cultural revolution took over with the escalation of the Vietnam War. However, she does not get to that career pinnacle in her memoir, as her story stops just as she flew to Los Angeles in 1963 to film Mary Poppins. It's a major credit to Andrews that she makes intriguing those early years prior to her international success with such perceptive candor and gentle humor. Perhaps because of her long-standing success as a children's book author, she displays a great deal of dexterity as a writer.
Andrews' childhood memories are full of self-effacing observations about a most unenviable home life. Belying her image of elegant breeding, she was raised in poverty by an alcoholic mother and a lecherous stepfather during the dwindling days of vaudeville in England. Already a part of her parents' music hall act by age nine, Andrews found she had an acrobatic soprano voice that so astounded the press that she performed for the Queen and became a nightly sensation at the London Palladium. She had a range of over four octaves and yet most tellingly labels her voice "freakishly high". Her talent certainly impressed others more than herself as she became the toast of Broadway and London first in Sandy Wilson's The Boy Friend and then legendarily as Eliza Doolittle and Queen Guinevere in Lerner and Lowe's My Fair Lady and Camelot, respectively. Andrews' professional recollections are full of celebrity dish but not obnoxiously so between Rex Harrison's flatulence, Richard Burton's amorous advances, Cecil Beaton's bitchiness about how she wears his clothes, and impressionable backstage visits from the likes of Laurence Olivier and Ingrid Bergman.
However, the book's most resonant passages focus on her conflicted and still painful memories of her rather dysfunctional family - her late mother, a promising classical pianist who let the bottle overcome her; a philandering grandfather whose indiscretions eventually cost the life of her grandmother; and most harrowing is her stepfather whose violent tendencies instilled an unsettling fear in the young Julie. There are some surprising revelations Andrews willingly shares in that recognizably crisp manner, and reflecting the woman herself, there is no doubt of the personal bravery it took for her to share them. With the inclusion of over fifty personal photos, the 339-page autobiography really whets the appetite for the sequel which I am hopeful is in the works since it will cover her impressive big-screen career. In the meantime, this first volume clearly reflects how she evolved into the iconic persona that is her legacy - classy, disciplined, forthcoming, amusing, a bit starchy, and truly one of the great treasures. I think I still have that crush.
on April 3, 2008
Coming some 60 years after her first professional recording, this audiobook is sort of the pinnacle of Ms. Andrews' recording career. The life of Julie Andrews, as written by Julie Andrews, and read to you, as if she were personally telling you the story of her life, by Julie Andrews.
Ms. Andrews' life and career have both been well-documented by biographers, but everything takes on new meaning and becomes personal when told by Ms. Andrews herself. And, of course, there are anecdotes and details that only Ms. Andrews herself can share with her audience, so there is much for even the most devoted fan to learn from this book. Here, she tells the story of her life from her earliest childhood to her career as a child star, from her journey to Broadway and television through to being cast by Walt Disney in MARY POPPINS.
The audiobook on CD is 13 hours long, spread over 11 CDs. Each disc contains seven to ten tracks; some chapters are one track long, and others are two to three tracks long. The production is straightforward and what you would expect of an audiobook -- read clearly, recorded well. Of course, I'd be happy hearing Ms. Andrews read the dictionary to me, but there is something magical and mesmerizing about her voice here, describing her own life.
At the end of the audiobook, Ms. Andrews says, "Thank you for listening." This is the only detail she has wrong -- we, the audience, should be saying to her, "Thank you for telling." I only hope we don't have to wait too long for the next part of the Julie Andrews story...
on April 2, 2008
I came of age listening to the original cast recordings of MY FAIR LADY and CAMELOT, and my first glimpse of Julie Andrews was in snippets from the latter show on ED SULLIVAN. I fell in love with her crystalline soprano and crisp diction and have always followed her career. When I heard she was writing a memoir of her early years, I couldn't wait to read it. After the book arrived from Amazon, I devoured it in two sittings, staying up late to finish. In beautiful, unflinching prose she fills in the gaps I've wondered about over the years, giving insights into her evolution from a young English girl with a big voice to the coloratura toast of Broadway--a transition she made with grit and talent. Ms. Andrews depicts a childhood that forced her to leave school at 14 and support her family with her singing, but there's not a trace of self-pity. She also shares details about her vocal training with Lilian Stiles-Allen. If you're a Julie Andrews fan, you'll want to buy this book and immerse yourself in her memories. She's a "fair lady," all right, and still the queen of the golden age of musicals. Brava, Ms. Andrews, and many thanks! -- from Susan Dormady Eisenberg, contributing writer to Classical Singer Magazine & author of the novel, THE VOICE I JUST HEARD.
on April 3, 2008
When it was announced that Home, Julie Andrews' much anticipated memoir would only cover until she began Mary Poppins, I was initially disappointed. But as I began delving into Home, I realized the detail she was able to afford her early years by doing so allowed a story to unravel that was absolutely absorbing; something that likely been comprised had Home chronicled her entire illustrious career. I was very ignorant of Julie's early career, thinking it essentially began with My Fair Lady on Broadway. What I didn't know was the dark lonely childhood lived in poverty during the war. Unlike Elizabeth Taylor, Julia (as she was originally named) did not have the luxury of seeking refuge elsewhere, and was forced to remain in a very bleak and dark London; many nights spent huddled in one of the city's Underground stations with her mother and her new stepfather who she despised. Weekends spent with her father in the countryside provided fleeting moments of happiness for the young girl.
As she grew a little older, her stepfather discovered that she had an extremely powerful singing voice, and she was quickly enrolled in lessons. In no time she was shoved onstage to entertain crowds alongside her parents in dusty old music halls across England. Julie, known as the "pigtail prodigy," became the centerpiece of the act, much to the frustration of her jealous stepfather, who was an alcoholic. In Home, Julie intimately remembers her early days spent touring around England during the dying days of vaudeville. As interest in the family act begins to dissipate, Julie appears in Christmas pantomimes and on the radio, and catches the eye of producers who are mounting the Broadway production of The Boy Friend, a recent musical hit there on the West End. By the end of Home, Julie is the toast of Broadway, originating the lead roles in My Fair Lady and Camelot, and is to begin work on the film that made her an icon, Mary Poppins.
In Home, the story of Julie Andrews' early career tumbles out a rapid pace, all the while displaying grace, wit, humour, and surprising honesty. It was quite clear to me just how meticulously researched Home actually was. As this book took ten years to complete, I doubt we'll see another so soon--although I pray I'm wrong. I'd love a follow-up just to know what happened in the lives of Dad, Mum, Pop, Aunt Joan, etc. after the book's completion. The characters are that endearing. Home is one of the greatest memoirs I have ever had the pleasure of reading. It's not hard to know why Julie Andrews and her films have become such an important part of our lives. Bravo, Julie. Bravo.
on April 2, 2008
I read the book in one evening. I could not put it down. I found myself at times forgetting that it was a book about Julie Andrews' early years and would get caught up in the storytelling. I found it to be occasionally very candid and, as with everything I've ever read, seen or heard from Ms. Andrews, included a great deal of humor. I laughed out loud many times.
What an amazing woman and a wonderful book. I eagerly await the next "chapter".
I wondered if Julie Andrews, a very private celebrity, would ler her guard down in her long-awaited autobiography "Home: A Memoir Of My Early Years." To my surprise and delight, she does just that and much more-- writing about many personal and painful memories with more candor and courage than I expected. After reading this book, I realized that biographies by Robert Windeler and Richard Stirling did not even begin to do her justice. To begin with, Julie can write wrings around her other "biographers". She has a true gift for writing and providing details of people, places and eras that create very specific and clear images in the the mind's eye of the reader. Many of her memories are emotionally harrowing and filled with almost heartbreaking pathos. Yet, it is never a sad, self-pitying, or self-serving autobiography. Julie balances the sadness with perception, depth, and her own delicious, delightful, often bawdy, sense of humor.
Julie's "early years" were mostly spent touring around England in the last, dying days of British vaudeville. Most of the venues she played in were terrible and tacky; a few were gloriously fun. She never complains or despairs, but life at home was definitely not a Disney "Jolly Holiday"-- definitely not with her abusive and alcoholic stepfather; "Pop" Ted Andrews. She resented him from the start, and he quickly gave her every good reason to resent him. She must have terribly resented having to adopt his last name. Yet, she is very "matter of fact" about the turn of events: "my name was changed from Julia Elizabeth Wells to Julie Andrews...I didn't have any say in the matter, and I don't think my father (Ted Wells, whom she absolutely adored) did, either. He must have been hurt.' Her family was severely fractured and disfunctional; and she seems acutely aware of this. Writing of a visit to her boyfriend Tony Walton's house, she says, "Everything was soothing, pleasant and spoke of a real home--quite a contrast to my own rather sad and disorganized one." Her mother, Barbara, was a rather pathetic alcoholic as well. When Julie was 14, her very drunk mother dropped a huge emotional bombshell regarding Julie's "biological father," who was not, as she always assumed, Ted Wells. This revealation, understandably, knocked Julie sideways for years. Yet, she responded to every adversity with the iron will and resolve of a true survivor. She writes, "I committed myself wholeheartedly to assumming responsibility for the entire family. It seemed solely up to me now to hold us together, for there was no one else to do it."
Because of her dedication to keeping her family intact, she nearly passed on the opportunity to make her Broadway debut in "The Boyfriend" at age 19. She had to be literally shoved onto a plane to the U.S.A. Broadway provided her with a nurturing environment, an education, and another "home", of sorts. When Julie describes her lengthy, nearly three year marathon run in the megahit musical "My Fair Lady," guided by her great director/mentor Moss Hart, the autobiography is completely engrossing. After this, she details the trials and tribulations that plagued "Camelot," Lerner and Loewe's costly, often misguided follow-up to "My Fair Lady."
The book ends rather abruptly-- just at the point where the reader is totally capitivated and feeling we are just beginning to know Julie. Julie, Tony Walton, and their newborn daughter Emma, are happily flying off to Hollywood-- Julie and Tony having accepted Walt Disney's offer to work on "Mary Poppins." One hopes Julie won't wait too long before she offers a second installment. Whether writing about personal tragedies or professional triumphs, Julie displays the warmth and graciousness that have made her so endearing for over 50 years. Above all, Julie proves that she is, without a doubt, one of the last true "class acts" left in show business.
"Home" was the first word that toddler Julia Wells -- soon to become Julie Andrews -- spoke. Though it was denied her as a young girl, a normal home life was important to Andrews from the beginning.
The embodiment of a class act, Julie Andrews tells the story of her impoverished upbringing in London with grace and candor. She recounts what must be painful memories in a straightforward way, never whining or asking for pity. She holds nothing back.
Stories of her alcoholic stepfather -- and his obvious efforts to molest her -- left me shaken. When she was 9, he insists he show her "how I cuddle with Mummy." At 16, he shows up in her bedroom and demands that he "really must teach you to kiss properly." Her uncle installs a padlock on her bedroom door. Julie's two younger brothers are regularly beaten and abused. When her 3-year-old brother has a potty-training accident, the stepdad rubs the little boy's nose in it.
Andrews began performing to support the family while still very young. She tells fascinating stories of learning to sing properly and working the shabby vaudeville circuit. The result of her first screen test? "She's not photogenic enough for film." To combat the stress the 12-year-old would go to a nearby cinema to watch Mickey Mouse cartoons between her two performances of the night.
The fact that Cinderella is her door out is almost too perfect. Later, when Walt Disney picked her to play Mary Poppins, she gets a whirlwind tour of Disneyland by Walt himself, riding the Jungle Cruise and seeing the Swiss Family Treehouse. "Mary Poppins" author P. L. Travers even calls her, complaining: "Well, you're much too pretty, of course. But you've got the nose for it!"
The memoir ends there, with Andrews on the cusp of real stardom.
on April 22, 2015
Book is about the first 30 years of Julie Andrews life. It focuses more on her family than her career. She grew up in a family that was poorer and more dysfunctional than you would expect. Some details are shocking. She is very English about it all-patient, polite, uncomplaining. Some glimpses of other famous celebrities-mostly admiring.
on December 27, 2015
I really enjoyed this well-written memoir, loved reading about bucolic England and the love Ms. Andrews had for the countryside there. I also especially loved reading about her early years in the NY theater.
As she states in the title, it's a memoir of her early years. Still, because the book is so good, I was disappointed when it ended, especially since it ends before she gets into Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, etc. She's a lovely writer. It would have been so pleasant to continue a few more hours with her.
The big surprise for me was how tough her childhood was. You never can tell about a person from the way they look and speak.
on June 19, 2015
This book is so good you may want two copies - the audio to hear Julie Andrews tell her own captivating story in her own lyrical voice and the hardback to see the photos. After listening to a library audio copy, I bought the hardback for myself and the audio for my brother, who is a huge fan of My Fair Lady. The stories about Rex Harrison are hilarious. No one's life is ever what you think. So it was amazing to learn of her childhood years in vaudeville that made this teenage English girl the overnight sensation on Broadway and in the movies in America. She speaks candidly but with grace about the difficult years with her stepfather and during the war, the demands on her voice performing almost nonstop on stage every night, the challenging times of making movies, life on two continents, her romances, marriage, famous costars, and beloved family whom she supported through it all. The book traces her life from birth to mid-career. I'm hoping there is a sequel, because she has one of the purest voices of the twentieth century, a real gift for storytelling and so much more to tell. Thank you, Julie, for sharing your heartfelt and inspiring story!