Monday, April 8, 2019

THE MAKING OF AN ICON: YOUNG AUDREY HEPBURN AND HER LIFE IN WARTIME EUROPE

 

  A REVIEW OF THE SOON-TO-BE-PUBLISHED BIOGRAPHY DUTCH GIRL: AUDREY HEPBURN AND WORLD WAR II...AND A BOOK GIVEAWAY

 

Audrey Hepburn. One of the most beloved stars in the history of Hollywood. An Oscar winner at age 25, she took the Best Actress award with her first starring role, as a runaway princess in Roman Holiday (1953). She would be nominated in the same category four times more and be honored, in 1993, with the Academy's Jean Hersholt humanitarian award. She was and is, 26 years after her death, a revered international style icon. And she has long been admired around the globe for her philanthropic work on behalf of the children of the world; in 1988 she embarked on her first mission for UNICEF, to Ethiopia, and in 1989 she was named a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.

Audrey Hepburn with her Academy Award for Roman Holiday, Oscar night 1954

Countless books have been written about Audrey Hepburn, both during her life and since her passing in 1993. But one area of her life has never been properly excavated, her life in the Netherlands during World War II when the country was under Nazi occupation. This was a watershed period in her life. According to her younger son, Luca Dotti, "When my mother wanted to teach me a lesson about life, she never used stories about her career. She always told stories about the war. The war was very, very important to her. It made her who she was." And it was her wartime experiences that would later inspire her to become an active advocate for the welfare of children in war torn areas of the world.

Audrey and her son Luca Dotti, 1971

May 4, 2019 marks the 90th anniversary of Audrey Hepburn's birth. Just in time for that special day, on April 15, GoodKnight Books will publish Robert Matzen's Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II. Matzen is a top author of popular biography and Dutch Girl is the third and final installment in his 'Hollywood in World War II' trilogy. The earlier entries in this series are Fireball: Carole Lombard and the Mystery of Flight 3 (2013) and Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe (2016). I've read the Lombard book and can attest that it is an intriguing and thorough examination of her final flight. Matzen's reconstruction and analysis of the events leading up to the crash more than resolved any mystery to my satisfaction. His book on Audrey Hepburn's early life is equally well-researched and absorbing.

With Dutch Girl he covers not only the loss, deprivation and terror Audrey - and all of Holland and much of Europe - suffered under Nazi rule, but also the depth of her parents' involvement in fascist politics. We understand why Audrey would eventually "let all of the family's titles of nobility die and be buried" with her mother. Matzen chronicles the youthful Audrey's affinity for the arts, her obsession with ballet and her early ambition and determination to become a ballerina. He digs into her involvement in the Dutch underground as well as her link to Anne Frank. Anne, who was born the same year as Audrey, and her family went into hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam, the city where young Audrey would also live for a time and study ballet.

Dutch Girl encompasses Audrey's life from its very beginnings in Brussels, Belgium, to her post-war sojourn in London. Though she originally made the move to London to attend the city's prestigious Rambert School of Ballet, she would soon realize that she didn't have the makings of a prima ballerina. It was then that she would let go of her cherished lifelong dream and, needing work, move on to dance on the popular stage, to television roles and to bit parts in British films. She would say she "stumbled" into acting and, late in life, reflect back on her career with wonder, "My success - it still bewilders me."

Dutch Girl is a fascinating journey of discovery into the life of a young girl, born into a declining aristocracy, under the thumb of a demanding mother, missing her absent father, who survives a ravaging world war and, in what seems an unlikely turn, begins to make her way to the world stage. Matzen's book details the many elements in her background that fostered the development of Audrey Hepburn's persona, her effortless elegance and gamine charm, the enchanting mix of vulnerability and resilience, and her strength of character. Audrey's son, Luca, has called Dutch Girl a "true gift," and comments on what it revealed to him of his mother's life, "I now understand why the words Good and Evil, and Love and Mercy were so fundamental in her own narrative. Why she was open about certain facts and why she kept so many others in a secluded area of her being." 

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Enter to win a copy of Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II

A random drawing will be held on Monday, April 15, for a hot-off-the-presses copy of Robert Matzen's book. To enter for your chance to win, email ladyevesidwich@gmail.com and note "Dutch Girl" in the subject line. Or comment on this post (will need your email address). The drawing will be held at 5pm/Pacific and the winner will be notified immediately.


UPDATE: CONGRATULATIONS TO DENISE M., WINNER OF OUR BOOK GIVEAWAY, COURTESY OF GOODKNIGHT BOOKS, FOR DUTCH GIRL: AUDREY HEPBURN AND WORLD WAR II!


Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II  will be available in hardcover, e-book and audiobook formats on April 15, 2019 wherever books are sold. It can be pre-ordered at Amazon.com.

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My thanks to GoodKnight Books for an advance copy of Dutch Girl.

10 comments:

  1. Being Dutch myself, I am really interested in Audrey's early years in The Netherlands during WW II. So thanks for your review and recommendation!

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    1. "Dutch Girl" is an excellent bio, with much information that is previously unpublished - and unknown. I know you will enjoy it.

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  2. I always thought this was one of the most fascinating aspects of her life, and how wonderful it is being given a book-length examination. Thanks for an interesting review!

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    1. And an excellent examination, in my opinion. Quite a bit in it that I was unaware of - new information I believe.

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  3. I'm in - such a wonderful lady.

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    1. You're on - and - she certainly was. A favorite of mine forever.

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  4. It's interesting that Audrey would share stories about the war with her children instead of stories about her Hollywood career. Like previous commenters have said, it looks like a lot of new and interesting info here.

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    1. Other Audrey bios included background on her life during WWII but this is the only one to focus entirely on it. And, yes, there is a lot of info previously unreported and unknown. You do come away understanding why the life lessons she shared with her children came from the war rather than the Hollywood years.

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  5. Thank you Lady Eve for this excellent highlight of Audrey Hepburn's early life and the book that captured it. The war years were such a formative period in her life that they affected her outlook, personality, and even her physical growth. I remember my mother telling me about the fear and deprivations she suffered along with my family. With Audrey's experience you can tell here why she could put so much in perspective.

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    1. The war seems to have been a curse and a blessing for Audrey Hepburn. One aspect of her perspective really stunned me, though. She thought she was unattractive, did not consider herself beautiful at all.

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