An illuminating and devastating examination of an icon and her dramatic experiences.




A popular biographer’s intimate portrait of Audrey Hepburn’s wartime experiences.

Before the world knew Audrey as an actress and UNICEF humanitarian, she was born Adriaantje, in 1929. With this scrupulous account of Hepburn’s upbringing in Belgium, England, and the Netherlands—elements that previous biographies have only glanced at—Matzen completes his trilogy on Hollywood stars during World War II, following books on Jimmy Stewart and Carole Lombard. The author delves into the attraction of fascism for Hepburn’s mother, Baroness Ella van Heemstra, and father, Joseph Ruston. He opens the book with a chilling passage about Ella’s meeting with Hitler in 1935. “He was so pale, so composed as he smiled that enigmatic smile, full of humility, the one seen so often in newsreels flickering on screens around the world,” writes Matzen. “He reached out his hand and accepted hers lightly.” After Joseph left the family, Hepburn’s life was irreversibly altered, as it would be again when the Germans invaded their town. The author interweaves detailed military and social history with Ella's lineage, quotes from Hepburn, fragments from the diaries of her contemporaries, and interviews with people who knew her. Hepburn seldom spoke of Ella’s early Nazi support or her own war efforts, but Matzen resurrects this history, thoroughly contextualizing Ella’s dominant personality. In addition to documenting the family’s many traumas, the author explores Hepburn’s love for ballet, and accounts of early film auditions add light to the bleakness. When thoughts and impressions are ascribed to Hepburn—e.g., her reaction to Anne Frank’s diary (“ ‘There were floods of tears,” Audrey said of that first encounter with the writing of Anne Frank. ‘I became hysterical.’ ”) and her 1992 trip to Somalia—the journalistic text is often moving but sometimes slows the narrative flow. Nonetheless, Matzen's labor of love amply shows how war shaped Hepburn’s worldview. Useful chapter notes blend bibliographic sources with the author’s reasoning for engaging with specific topics.

An illuminating and devastating examination of an icon and her dramatic experiences.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73227-358-0

Page Count: 404

Publisher: GoodKnight Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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An extraordinary true tale of torment, retribution, and loyalty that's irresistibly readable in spite of its intrusively melodramatic prose. Starting out with calculated, movie-ready anecdotes about his boyhood gang, Carcaterra's memoir takes a hairpin turn into horror and then changes tack once more to relate grippingly what must be one of the most outrageous confidence schemes ever perpetrated. Growing up in New York's Hell's Kitchen in the 1960s, former New York Daily News reporter Carcaterra (A Safe Place, 1993) had three close friends with whom he played stickball, bedeviled nuns, and ran errands for the neighborhood Mob boss. All this is recalled through a dripping mist of nostalgia; the streetcorner banter is as stilted and coy as a late Bowery Boys film. But a third of the way in, the story suddenly takes off: In 1967 the four friends seriously injured a man when they more or less unintentionally rolled a hot-dog cart down the steps of a subway entrance. The boys, aged 11 to 14, were packed off to an upstate New York reformatory so brutal it makes Sing Sing sound like Sunnybrook Farm. The guards continually raped and beat them, at one point tossing all of them into solitary confinement, where rats gnawed at their wounds and the menu consisted of oatmeal soaked in urine. Two of Carcaterra's friends were dehumanized by their year upstate, eventually becoming prominent gangsters. In 1980, they happened upon the former guard who had been their principal torturer and shot him dead. The book's stunning denouement concerns the successful plot devised by the author and his third friend, now a Manhattan assistant DA, to free the two killers and to exact revenge against the remaining ex-guards who had scarred their lives so irrevocably. Carcaterra has run a moral and emotional gauntlet, and the resulting book, despite its flaws, is disturbing and hard to forget. (Film rights to Propaganda; author tour)

Pub Date: July 10, 1995

ISBN: 0-345-39606-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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