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A MEMOIR OF MY EARLY YEARS

Bears out the suspicion that Richard Stirling’s unrevealing Julie Andrews: An Intimate Biography (2008) faithfully reflects...

Closing on the eve of her Oscar-winning film debut in Mary Poppins, Andrews’s memoir focuses on a young and, in most respects, rather ordinary girl with a complicated home life and a freakishly precocious larynx.

Christened Julia Wells, the author writes evocatively of her youth in bomb-ravaged London, and of accompanying her musical mother and stepfather (the source of her current surname) as they worked the punishing music-hall circuit, dogged by alcoholism and precarious finances. Prepubescent Julie, with her strikingly mature coloratura, eventually became the act’s star attraction and the family’s chief breadwinner. All this is clearly and elegantly presented—Andrews’s limpid prose style has earned her considerable success as an author of children’s books—but curiously muted, as she admits to generic feelings of sadness or stress but declines to further explicate her inner life. It remains unclear whether this is simply the evidence of a fundamentally reserved personality, or if Andrews lacks the complexity usually associated with artists of her accomplishments. Her oddly bloodless accounts of her relationships with her feckless, selfish mother, overbearing, mildly predatory stepfather and loyal first husband offer few clues. Andrews conveys real feeling only when discussing her beloved father, Ted Wells, a gentle teacher and nature lover whose simple enjoyment of hearth, home and the natural world seems central to her cozy worldview. The latter half of the narrative is manna for musical-theater buffs: Writing about her phenomenal Broadway successes in My Fair Lady and Camelot, Andrews provides entertaining gossip about Rex Harrison, Richard Burton, Lerner and Loewe, and Moss Hart, as well as insightful, informative analysis of the technical aspects of her craft.

Bears out the suspicion that Richard Stirling’s unrevealing Julie Andrews: An Intimate Biography (2008) faithfully reflects its subject’s personality.

Pub Date: April 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-7868-6565-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2008

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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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INTO THE WILD

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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