Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years (2019) – Julie Andrews

Title:Home Work: A Memoir of my Hollywood Years
Author:Julie Andrews with Emma Walton Hamilton
Publisher:Weidenfeld & Nocolson/Hachette Books
Date published:2019
Star rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Disclaimer:This copy was kindly sent to me by Jonathan Ball Publishers South Africa in exchange for an honest review.

This is the follow up to Andrews’ first memoir, Home: A Memory of My Early Years (2008), which described her childhood and her start in show business as a vaudeville performer. It was during these early years that Julie Andrews would go on to meet her first husband Tony Walton, whose magnificent skill at set design had the couple working together on numerous projects including the most brilliant of all, Walt Disney’s masterpiece Mary Poppins (1964). Before this iconic role Julie’s life had been one of hardship and hard work. Her love and talent for performing and singing became not only her creative outlet but most often the only way to financially support her large family whose livelihoods were often at the mercy of the young Julie. Andrews’ responsibilities and role as caretaker of her family would carry on well into her adult years, and would often cause intense strain on her relationships. She would eventually divorce Walton, and would go on to meet and marry director Blake Edwards whom she remained married to until his death in 2010.

Andrews’ wrote this memoir about her life with Blake Edwards, and about the children in her life both biological and adopted. In so many ways there is both efficiency and an intimacy to her memoirs. She weaves anecdotes of her life on the sets of films such as Hitchcock’s Torn Curtain (1966), The Sound of Music (1965)and Victor/Victoria (1982)with paragraphs taken from the diaries she kept, and a selection of private photographs of her growing family. As thrilling as their life was with all the traveling between England, Hollywood and Switzerland (where they had a second home), she was also away from her children for extensive periods of time, and admits to having spent a lot of time feeling guilty for having to leave them in the care of nannies. In between working on films Andrews also discovered that she enjoyed writing children’s books, and went on to write several, the first of which was Mandy, a book she wrote for Blake’s daughter Jenny. She also penned a number of books with her daughter Emma, the child she had with Tony. Despite her busy life and demanding work schedule the actress always tried to make time for her children, and often eludes to the hours she spent reading stories to them.

As with any show business memoir one hopes for a little bit of gossip and intrigue, and in this case Julie Andrews will surely disappoint. During the sixties and seventies, and in the midst of Hollywood scandals and glamorous parties, Julie Andrews was working far too hard to be involved in sex and drugs. This doesn’t mean she wasn’t offered either but in so many ways she was more like Maria (Von Trapp) or Mary (Poppins) when it came to the cocaine and orgies that swirled around her industry. When discussing her many male co-stars such as James Garner, Paul Newman, Omar Sharif, Dick Van Dyke, Burt Reynolds and Dudley Moore, Julie has only gracious things to say regarding their work ethics and general dispositions. She is every bit the professional, and in fact this is her appeal. In a world where the shock factor gains an audience, we should be won over by Julie Andrews’ refusal to be anything other than the roles she chose to play. That of actress, of singer, of humanitarian, of writer, of wife and of mother, and not necessarily in that order.

With each role Julie played she would continue to support her sickly mother, an alcoholic step-father, and a brother who struggled with addiction. She remained very close to her father and his new wife, and remained on friendly terms with Tony, and Blake’s ex-wife Patty who battled with depression. Andrews herself is very open about her extensive time spent in therapy and how beneficial it has been for her over the years of being both in the public eye, and the problems she experienced in her private life.

In her memoirs we hear every doubt and every burst of gratitude, and sometimes we want to tell Julie Andrews the actress and dancer and incredible singer that it is okay to be all of these things and a mother and a supportive wife to a man who is obsessed with his work. In fact if I am going to take one word and use it to describe Julie Andrews and this memoir that word is going to be: grace. If you are expecting a memoir filled with Hollywood gossip you will not get that. You will instead receive an incredible gift. The gift of an intimate invitation into the life of one of the most hard-working people in an industry that was not always kind to those that did not conform, and whose performances were sometimes deemed too ‘white bread’ for the more risqué Hollywood contenders. Despite all of that she persevered and maintained a reputation for being endearing, kind and true to herself.

For anyone interested in the film industry, the films and television work of Julie Andrews, the work of Blake Edwards, and the inspiring story of an extended family whose home life was both glorious and challenging at the same time, Andrews’ words will inspire you and delight you, and keep you reading late into the night. You will also suddenly find yourself singing the words to ‘Do-Re-Mi’ for weeks afterwards… You may even skip a while when you walk.

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