Review: Home Work (Julie Andrews)

November 7, 2019Hels

“Sometimes opportunities float right past your nose. Work hard, apply yourself, and be ready. When an opportunity comes you can grab it.”

Julie Andrews

When I was around four years old, I watched The Sound of Music for the first time. I fell in love with it, and used to watch it almost every morning before school. The first time I watched Mary Poppins, I vividly remember sobbing for hours when Mary flew away. There are home videos of my sister and I acting out scenes from The Sound of Music (sadly our voices didn’t quite compare to those of the Von Trapp children, but our attempts at ‘So Long, Farewell’ were at least fairly cute, I think!) 

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to see Julie Andrews at the O2. I was SO excited and a group of us went. I knew she wouldn’t really be singing, so I wasn’t totally sure what to expect. Unfortunately, the evening was really disappointing, she did some ‘speak-singing’ of a few songs before passing over to backing singers, which was actually quite heartbreaking to watch, seeing how her unbelievable vocal range had been stripped to just a few notes, and the second half was a bizarre enactment of Simeon’s Gift, a book she wrote with her daughter, and she narrated it. The O2 is SUCH a huge arena, and it just didn’t work.

Last week however, I went with my best friend to A Conversation with Dame Julie Andrews at Royal Festival Hall. It was a brilliant afternoon, a much more intimate setting, and it felt very relaxed and natural. She was chatting with Alex Jennings and sharing stories about her time in Hollywood. The show began with a gorgeous montage of some of her films which was lovely to watch. 

Included in the price of the ticket was a copy of her new memoir, Home Work. The book covers her years in Hollywood and I was so excited to read it…

Home Work (Julie Andrews)

Author: Julie Andrews (with Emma Walton Hamilton)
Genre: Autobiography
Page Count: 352
Published: 15 October 2019

 

In this follow-up to her critically acclaimed and bestselling memoir Home, the enchanting Julie Andrews picks up her story with her arrival in Hollywood, sharing the career highlights, personal experiences and reflections behind her astonishing career, including such classics as Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, Victor/Victoria and many others.

In Home Work, Julie describes her years in Hollywood – from the incredible highs to the challenging lows. Not only does she detail her work in now-classic films and her collaborations with giants of cinema and television; she also unveils her personal story of adjusting to a new and often daunting world, dealing with the demands of unimaginable success, being a new mother, moving on from her first marriage, embracing two stepchildren, adopting two more children, and falling in love with the brilliant and mercurial Blake Edwards. The pair worked together in numerous films, culminating in Victor/Victoria, the gender-bending comedy that garnered multiple Oscar nominations.

Home Work Julie Andrews

The thing I loved most about this book was the little anecdotes, the unique insights and details into Hollywood. As well as talking about her own journey through Hollywood, she talks about the actual creation of the films, and a lot of the behind-the-scenes work that went into the films. Her descriptions of the filming process for The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins were fascinating, and I loved her stories about the journeys she went on in order to connect with the characters she was playing. 

One thing that very much stands out in the book is how nice Julie Andrews clearly is. I wasn’t expecting to read horror stories of Hollywood, or insults of particular actors, but she is generally extremely generous in her descriptions of people she comes across and is very polite about everyone. There is a feeling of keeping the reader at arms length a little throughout the book, which I do understand to some extent, and although she does talk about very personal matters, such as her husband’s struggle with self-medicating and her young brother’s drug abuse, the tone is very to-the-point. I don’t know how intentional that is, but it felt almost disconnected at times. Saying that, I appreciate that she has always been a very private person, and the way in which she tends to state facts rather than get over-emotional in the book is evident. I do applaud how open and honest she was when she talked about how she struggled with juggling family life, being a new mother and keeping up with her hectic schedule. 

I really enjoyed the excerpts from her diaries which she included throughout the book, particularly from her time in Vietnam. 

The detail in this book is absolutely amazing. Julie Andrews has had such an incredible career and her story is so unique, it’s a really fascinating read. This is not a book involving any Hollywood scandal, other than a brief mention of drugs, but it is a story of gratitude, and of family and love. The highlights are definitely the tales of filming her various films, and I love the photos she chose to include.

I think the fact I was lucky enough to go to A Conversation With Dame Julie Andrews made the book more enjoyable, as several of the anecdotes in the book were told during the course of the afternoon, and so I could picture them more vividly, and being able to visualise her telling the stories herself, which made them more special.

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