Book Review By Valerie Porter
Let’s Read: “Home – A Memoir of My Early Years”
It might be tempting to bypass Julie Andrews’ autobiography, since its subtitle indicates it covers only the early years of her life.
There will be no Sound of Music stories, no memories of her becoming a Dame or the loss of her singing voice. The book ends where most of us first became truly aware of her – when she flies off to Los Angeles to star in her first film, Mary Poppins – but the book is well worth reading. Many people will have a preconceived notion of what Julie Andrews is really like, as well as what type of background she came from, but they’d no doubt be wrong.
She’s a prim and proper Englishwoman who sprang from a well-ordered and mannerly upbringing. Think again.
This is the story of a difficult childhood during war-torn Britain. Vaudevillian parents Barbara Morris and Ted Wells traveled constantly to entertain, and pushed young Julia (her given name) to entertain as soon as they heard her sing.
A subsequent divorce, potential sexual abuse by a new father figure and alcoholism from stepfather Ted Andrews followed. It was far from easy for the singer we’ve come to love and respect.
An instant sensation when she first stepped onstage, she had the honor of singing for Queen Elizabeth (later to become the Queen Mum) when she was ten years old. But she also had the financial responsibility of holding her family together when most children are still playing with friends.
Andrews’ early successes, which many have forgotten or been unaware of, are detailed in the book – the Broadway and touring companies of Cinderella, The Boyfriend, My Fair Lady and Camelot.
A special treat are over 50 personal photos of those early years that Andrews has made public for the first time.
The book begins slowly and confusingly with an exhaustive list of parents, great-grandparents and assorted other relatives. Once past this stage, though, it’s an easy read. She gives insight into the theatrical world and singing technique, too. While there may not be stories about her most recent celebrity associations, there are plenty of anecdotes about Richard Burton, Robert Goulet, Rex Harrison and others from her earlier career.
Readers are left with a new insight and respect for Julie Andrews, while also learning that she’s been mischievous, slightly naughty and altogether human. There’s also a certain exciting sense of anticipation that surely there’s a sequel in the making that will cover the rest of this lady’s vast career and personal experiences.