Julie Andrews Autobiography Released March 2008 in the UK -- April 2008 in the US

27 March 2008
By Lev Grossman

The Confessions of Mary Poppins

If Julie Andrews were a young star today, instead of in the 1960s, she wouldn't   have had so much trouble shedding 
that squeaky-clean, permafresh, NutraSweet public image she got from Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. The paparazzi
would have already spotted her at 16 snogging a comely Danish acrobat who appeared with her in a stage production of
Aladdin, and that would've been that. Instead, we've had to wait for her to tell us about it herself in a frank and
fascinating memoir called Home (Hyperion; 339 pages).

There was nothing sweet about Andrews' childhood. She was born in England in 1935 and grew up poor. When she was 4, her mother, a pianist, took up with a handsome vaudeville tenor who later became an alcoholic and at one point forced a creepy,
toe-curling kiss on her. Meanwhile, Andrews' real father, a tender and saintly man, turned out not to be her "real" father at all: when she was 14, her mother bluntly informed her that she had been conceived in a one-time liaison with an acquaintance.

Andrews' golden ticket out of the squalor was her freakish singing voice: pure, light and agile, with a tremendous range and perfect pitch. By 9 she was out on tour with her mother and stepfather. It was the dying days of vaudeville, and she belted out her high Fs on sticky, splintered stages to halls full of cigarette smoke, but by 13 she'd been asked to perform for the Queen, and by 17 the family mortgage was in her name. By 19 she was on Broadway in The Boy Friend.

Home is subtitled A Memoir of My Early Years, and it takes us only through 1962, post--My Fair Lady and Camelot but pre-Poppins. But it gives us a full helping of backstage gossip, from a drunken, amorous Richard Burton to an explosively flatulent Rex Harrison. Andrews comes across as plainspoken, guilelessly charming and resoundingly tough. Maybe too tough--she lets us backstage, but she never quite takes us upstairs, into her head. (Moss Hart, trying gamely to get Andrews to emote in My Fair Lady, said, sighing, "She has that terrible British strength that makes you wonder how they ever lost India.") But she shows us where the toughness comes from: only somebody who fought her way out of the muck could ever be that squeaky clean.

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