...what we have here is Julie Andrews as her actual self, with barely a spoonful of sugar along the way... Andrews’s tone is measured but realistic. The book is filled with that most distinctive of all of her qualities: her voice. For many, hearing the struggles with domestic despair will be like finding a tender hand in the dark. Her honesty is not self-indulgent. There’s a sense that she wants to give comfort to those whose domestic lives are also filled with struggle. As such, Mary Poppins may appear only briefly here, but her spirit is alive and well.
What got Andrews through the catastrophes, whether it was Edwards’s daughter having a fling with the karate instructor or her mother’s coughing so much she broke two ribs, is her sense of humour, or even hysteria. She’s always telling us, “I laughed so hard”; when watching one of Edwards’s films, she “laughed so hard I practically slid off my seat”; “I collapsed with laughter” at things the children said. I didn’t laugh once when reading her book, but I did admire the candour. What a resilient woman.
perhaps because the book is co-written with her adored daughter Emma Walton Hamilton, and perhaps because of temperament, Andrews tends to skate on the surface of things. She records, but she does not dig. She also devotes far too many pages to her relationship with Edwards, who comes across as charismatic, difficult and depressed. Her love for and loyalty to him — in spite of the difficulties of his film career, when his ambition was clipped by the studios — are admirable but frustrating; it’s her I want to read about.
Quite the best passages are when she lets her descriptive powers take flight and talks about herself. The section on Mary Poppins, on the difficulties of the early yellow screen technology, and of flying, is riveting. So is her endurance. “I literally did a lot of ‘hanging around’ between takes, and when I was suspended, the steel panels pressed on my hip bones, which became very bruised.”