Review Andrews

Home, a Memoir of My Early Years by: Julie Andrews

Chapter 1, page 1, paragraph 1: “I am told that the first comprehensible word I uttered as a child was ‘home’.”

Home was the first word that Julie Andrews (born Julia Elizabeth Wells) spoke, according to her parents. Throughout her autobiography, Julie makes many references of searching for a place she could call home. She takes her readers on a roller coaster ride of uprooted dysfunction throughout her childhood, and into her twenties.

The autobiography is written in first person, and is a captivating epic of struggle, humility, and survival. Her narrative writing is superb, and at times it felt that Julie was sitting in the room, reading the words directly. She uses very visual terms to describe all that she sees; the River Thames - where she grew up, the vacations with her father, and places she traveled to for work. She includes photographs of a ‘picture-perfect’ family, but divulges details of their struggles, including the potential pedophile tendencies of her step-father.

I could not help but admire her courage at exposing such honest history. Most people, especially those who live their lives in the public eye, tend to contain and hide their family skeletons in the closet. Instead, Julie unravels the branches of her family tree, to cite historical events of several generations back. Her accounts on the lives of her great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents, have enough material to begin their own soap opera. Julie narrates their journeys in a compassionate, yet un-biased fashion; reporting on their courtships, alcoholism, infidelity, and contraction of syphilis.

By the time that Julie gets to her personal childhood accounts, readers may feel “What could she possibly have left to tell?” But then the roller coaster ride continues. Julie was born in October of 1935, and named after her grandmothers. When her mother separated from her father and married the singer she performed with, Ted Andrews, Julie’s name was changed to appease him.

Julie’s story takes readers through the terror of growing up during the war in the 1940’s; with air raids and having to take cover in the underground subways. She longs for visits with her father and brother, in-between her voice lessons and abiding by the plans her mother and Ted have for her. She becomes the bread winner for her mother, step-father, and half-siblings by the time she was seventeen. The family home was even signed over to her, as her alcoholic mother and step-father could no longer perform.

This beautifully written account of Julie Andrew’s life gives insight into a performer I have long admired. Without this memoir, I would never have guessed she endured such a tragic, colorful youth. I have heaps of new-found respect for Julie; the entertainer, the daughter, the sister, the friend, the wife, and the mother. She managed to muddle through the pebbles of opportunity she was given, and turn them into a grand, stable foundation of a future. She spent her life searching for places to feel safe and call home. By the time you read her final pages of the last chapter, Julie is in her twenties, married, a new mother, has a thriving career, and leaves you with the impression she has finally found achievement.

I recommend reading Julie’s story slowly; to savor the history she serves you. She has lived a miraculous life, and I thank her for sharing it with us. I will certainly purchase more of her published writings (as well as re-read ‘Home’ again and again).