Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Book Review: Home

(Reclaimed from Blogjob.)

A Fair Trade Book
Author: Julie Andrews
Date: 2008
Publisher: Hyperion / Harper Collins
Length: 320 pages plus index and inserts
Illustrations: many black-and-white photo inserts
Quote: "I am told that the first comprehensible word I uttered as a child was 'home.'"
If you've ever wondered what the early life of Maria in The Sound of Musicor the twentieth-century-wholesome Guinevere in Camelot, might have been like...Home is the authoritative story of what it was like growing up to be That Kind of Girl.
Though Julie Andrews has sometimes looked back on herself as "a very sad little girl," and growing up in England during the Depression and War period was certainly no picnic, Home is not a sad book. It's gritty, but...wholesome, like Andrews' image. "How they" (her parents and aunt) "managed I'll never know, but somehow they were even able to take the odd vacation." Her family were live entertainers--what used to be called, as a matter of objective fact, "troupers"--and, apparently, they had the frugal, cheerful, stiff-upper-lip attitude toward life that later came to be meant by describing people as "real troupers."
Her parents divorced, as well, long before that was considered socially acceptable. Andrews was a child of a broken home. With alcohol problems, as well. No "buried memories" of horrible sadistic abuses, but a levelheaded, matter-of-fact memory of a stepfather who behaved inappropriately and of how teenaged Julie avoided real abuse, appears in this book.
Mostly, what she shares with fans is the kind of thing we wanted to know...how she worked toward her early success as a singer and actress, how she trained, how she balanced work and school, how she found the time to read enough to become a writer as well, and how and when she managed to squeeze in "a bit of fun," often a road or boat trip through the country.
As I leaf through my copy while typing this review, what pops up on every page is work--work--work, lightly seasoned with educational experiences and the influence of mostly good friends. Even in 1940, when little Julie was not quite five years old, "my mother signed on for...the Entertainments National Service Association--jokingly referred to as 'Every Night Something Awful.'" At nine "my proper singing training began." "Just before my tenth birthday, Mum said to me, 'Pop's going to invite you to sing on stage.'" By age twelve "we played two performances every night but Sunday." At thirteen "Mum and Pop were second top of the bill...I was working...at the Hippodrome, in a variety show...as 'Julie Andrews--Melody of Youth.'"
The story continues through the bits readers most wanted to read about, Andrews' successes with Camelot and The Sound of Music; we get some amusing, not scandalous, backstage views of other celebrities, including writers as well as actors and musicians, and some nice harmless bits about her marriage and her daughter. We learn how, although in the early collections that mention Guinevere and Lancelot the consensus is that they Did Wrong, in Camelot the actors made these characters seem so nice that the closest they could come to Doing Wrong was Resisting Temptation. We learn how closely the makers of Camelot worked with T.H. White, even though the movie bears little resemblance to The Once and Future King. This book fades out with a "coming home" moment from 1963.
Julie Andrews was born in 1935, and has never completely retired since:
Although the web site dedicated to "JulieAndrewsOnline" is frankly maintained "by fans, for fans," Andrews' continuing activity makes Home very much a Fair Trade Book. $5 per copy + $5 per package to either address at the lower left-hand corner of the screen...is not the best price you might find somewhere else, but if you buy Home here we'll send $1 per copy to Andrews or a charity of her choice. (If you buy four copies at once, you pay $25 and Andrews or her charity gets $4.)
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(And the Wordpress long-tailed tags were: Julie AndrewsRichard BurtonT.H. WhiteThe Once and Future Kingthe production of CamelotThe Sound of Music.)