Book review: Audrey and Bill
Title: Audrey and Bill A romantic Biography of Audrey Hepburn and William Holden
Author: Edward Z. Epstein
Confession time. When I first saw this book, I thought, "I've seen a movie or two with Audrey in it! She's an icon! I want to know more about her!" Upon reading this book...that may not have been the best course of action...
What's it about?
Simply put, two stars, two legends, one epic love story. The attraction was instantaneous between them with a fall out that would continue to haunt them for the rest of their lives as they wove in and out of one another's life stories in search of a love so monumental, they could only find it with each other.
Favorite Character: Audrey Hepburn. I know, not surprising, but, honestly, for me it kind of was. I didn't know much about Audrey at all before picking up this book, in fact, I had only seen two of her movies, one of which I had forgotten all together that she was even in! So I didn't know much about her other then she was iconic. As I read this book, I found myself torn, constantly wondering how I could respect someone who behaved in ways not entirely respectable. She had affairs when married men, and sometimes even when she herself was married, but she was a strong, independent woman. She worked hard, succeeded and held her own standards while never letting fame and success define how she saw herself. She fought for what she believed in and wanted and didn't depend on her fame or birth title (did you know she was a Dutch Nobel woman?) to earn her success. She worked hard and earned her success on her own terms.
Least Favorite Characters: Mel Ferrer and Andrea Dottie earn this tittle, and I'm not sure which one I dislike more. I felt like both men treated Audrey with a lack of respect, depending more on her success and position among Dutch nobility to help advance them to a higher prestige, and unhappy when it didn't work the way they had hoped.Of course, that combined with their infidelity left much to be desired in both men.
Favorite Part: Honestly, I think my favorite part was the experience of learning more about a time in Hollywood that I don't know much about, and the people who played such a huge role in building the industry we know today.
Least Favorite Parts: I kind of felt like the book was rushed. There was a emphasis on the relationship between Audrey and Bill (William), however, their time together was really short lived and I felt most of the book was spent glossing over times and relationship that did not include both of them. I would have liked to get a better picture as to who each of the stars were and how they lived as a whole, not just in reference to the other. With that being said, I also realized that Audrey wasn't one to announce her personal life for all to know, and Bill certainly had his secrets as well, so I suspect that there are many details that were not meant to be known by the public and that that may be part of why the book was written as it was.
I also struggled a little with my own ignorance. I had hoped to get to know Audrey through this book, and I know now that that's not what this book was meant to do (and if it was, Mr. Epstein failed terribly). Because of my own ignorance and the way in which this book was written, I felt like I missed references and overlooked pieces that may not have been so easily overlooked had I had a basis to work from, starting with having seen more then two movies of Ms. Hepburn (remember how I said I chose the wrong course of action? This is why). So, now I've completed this book with a list of movies I need to experience to fit the pieces together. For the record, I would recommend seeing the movies before reading the book.
Favorite Quotes: The first one is found on page 35. It says, "William Holden had his own approach. 'Take any picture you can. One out of four will be good, one out of ten will be very good and one out of fifteen will get you an Oscar.'" Why did this rate with me? Because in life we are faced with countless opportunities. Some will fail and end poorly. Some will be good, some neutral and even fewer will be great. But if we don't try, if we don't take the chance and embrace the opportunity, we will never find the good, life changing experiences. We'll constantly be stuck motionless where we are with no one but ourselves and lack of effort to blame.
Latter, on page 206, another quote pulled on me and demanded that I take a moment to write it down as well. A friend of Audrey and Bill's said after Bill's death, "Here lies a very successful man, who spontaneously gave up his profession to devote himself to endangered species. He did not take much care of himself so he killed himself. However, what he neglected to consider was that he himself was an endangered species as well: The Handsome American." Again, this spark of brilliance sent me down a slightly different line of thought, leading to great meaning. Because, if we're being honest, don't many of us do this to some degree? We are so blinded by the love, devotion and loyalty we have for those we love. We look in the mirror and see, first and for most, a parent. A spouse. A caregiver of some complicity. We see so many pieces of us that we value so much that we forget to value the whole. We forget that, just as those troubled kids in Saturday detention, we are not one thing, we are a little of everything. What Mr. Wilder said about Bill struck me as a reminder that we all need to take care of ourselves, not just those around us. We are all endangered, beautiful talents upon this Earth and should allow ourselves to take care of ourselves as such. Just as Mr. Holden was of very little good when he was drunk, and even less when he was dead, we aren't as good to our loved ones if we're killing ourselves to any degree. (Don't tell my husband I admitted this).
Finally, the last quote comes from Ms. Audrey Hepburn herself. I think the beauty I saw in in revolves around how incredibly humble she was, and yet how she found a piece of power to embrace in how she impacted the world around her and worked to make it better. On page 215 she says, "Personally, I can do very little, but I can contribute to a whole chain of events, and that's a marvelous feeling. It's like a bonus to me towards the end of my life. It gives me a voice."
More thoughts and reflections:
While I do wish that I had experienced more of Audrey's quiet, timeless beauty and style prior to reading this book, I truly enjoyed this read. While talking to my mother in law about my experience reading Audrey and Bill, she laughed a little and said, "Well yeah! They're before my time, even, dear!" And, to some degree that's true, but I feel like I finally have a sense to what was so great about Audrey Hepburn and why women wanted to be like her. She was fierce, elegant, understated, talented, stylish, humble and beautiful all rolled into one. She worked and earned the right to be proud of her accomplishments.She carried herself with dignity.Those qualities I respect.
What do I rate this book?
I give this book....
5 strands of pearls
But that's just me! What did you think about this book? What's your favorite movie with Audrey Hepburn and/or William Holden in it? Let us know in the comments.