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Irving Berlin: A Daughter's Memoir Paperback – August 1, 2004


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Irving Berlin's (1888-1989) oldest daughter here tells of growing up with the composer of some of America's most popular songs, including "White Christmas," "God Bless America" and "Easter Parade." Barrett (An Accident of Love) details her parents' well-publicized romance and marriage, which scandalized her mother's family, and describes life in a household with a Catholic mother from one of the country's wealthiest families and a Jewish father who earned millions with his music though his parents were penniless Russian immigrants. It was a storybook childhood, with loving parents, governesses and innumerable servants; homes in Los Angeles, the Catskills and New York City; and daily contact with the rich and the famous. Yet there was a dark side: the death of the Berlins' infant son; "dry spells" when the composer could not write; and periods of depression for both him and his wife, culminating in his later years as a virtual recluse. Barrett's bittersweet memoir is affectionate yet candid. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Songwriter Irving Berlin's eldest daughter (American Beauty, LJ 9/15/80) provides a memorable look at growing up in a multicultural yet privileged family in New York and California during the 1930s and 1940s. She recalls cultural and personal milestones of that era both from an adult perspective and from the perspective of the sometimes spoiled child and adolescent she claims-convincingly and with good humor-to have been. Her father lived to more than 100 years of age, and Barrett continues her narrative through her own adulthood and his final years. Although Berlin's marriage to a non-Jew was considered a major media scandal, his later family life seems to have been eminently wholesome though not without problems and troubling creative dry spells. Barrett's writing is exceptionally good, providing a unique look at a creative life while maintaining the high interest level one would expect from a first-rate novel. Highly recommended for public libraries and music collections.
James E. Ross, Seattle P.L.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Limelight Editions (August 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0879100788
  • ISBN-13: 978-0879100780
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,846,216 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By anneh@pe.net on September 3, 1997
Format: Paperback
This is a beautifully written remembrance of one of the world's greatest songwriters. Berlin fans will welcome the personal insight, warmth and vivid detail that author Barrett provides. A recluse for the last 25 years of his life, Berlin has been an enigma to many, and this book provides many of the intimate details so sorely lacking in other biographies of this American treasure
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By CJS on September 16, 2011
Format: Paperback
A truly wonderful book - Barrett's descriptions of the homes and times of New York and Hollywood in the 20's, 30's, and 40's are a time traveling experience. Her descriptions are so precise that you feel you are transported and are there in the rooms with her. This is a rare feeling that I've only experienced in a handful of books throughout my lifetime but it is truly wonderful. Barrett is the oldest daughter of composer Irving Berlin and it was refreshing to read about him in the role of a father, without the constant analysis of what his songs meant, how he wrote them, etc. Her mother, Ellin Mackay was also an interesting person to read about, very talented, and worthy of her own book. She and Berlin were married for 63 years and from such opposite backgrounds but the book portrays a marriage of true love which is so rare - both then and now. The book is not only a must read for any Berlin fans but for those interested in New York life in the early part of the 20th century.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jerry Rothschild on July 23, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
We attended the Sunset Syncopators free jazz concert the first Sunday in June where Jim Jones dedicated the entire evening to compositions by Irving Berlin; It was at the Palos Verdes library; hence the book reviews; we bot the book; my lady friend was delighted; it is well written; Amazon is a good place to buy anything; the shippers are doing their thing also; the price is right and she loves to read. There are no losers here. Jerry R in Inglewood
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By idahoheidi on May 9, 2012
Format: Paperback
I have owned this book for several years, and I just finished reading it for the third time. A remarkable, beautifully written book. Thank you, Mary Ellin Barrett, for giving us a glimpse of life with the amazing Irving Berlin.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By PG on February 22, 2009
Format: Paperback
This latest Berlin biography is not a "show biz bio" as much as it is a family memoir. I feel that fact is addressed perfectly in the title, but I mention it here just to be clear.

I am a collector of Broadway and theatre biographies, and this particular book is one of the most beautifully written I have seen. Berlin's eldest daughter shows a considerable amount of talent herself, as author of this memoir. I especially appreciated the author's willingness to reveal some of the family's more personal tragedies. Their inclusion certainly helps us to understand who Berlin was.

A previous reviewer bemoans the fact that the book does not unlock the mysteries behind Berlin's unschooled musicianship. I never expected it would. Per the title, I expected an beautifully written memoir from a personal perspective. That's exactly what this book is.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sadashiva on October 2, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Wonderful book.
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