Audrey Hepburn, by Barry Paris
This book has been considered the definitive Audrey Hepburn biography for as long as I’ve been a fan, and since being published in 1996, not many people have tried to pen a biography on the fair lady. Why? Because Barry Paris did it right. His book is loving without being fawning, and is intensely informative. He goes into great detail about Audrey’s family and heritage, and doesn’t stoop to idle speculation as to why her parents (Ella and Joseph) divorced. Paris also offers the most information about World War II out of any available Audrey biography, going into very great detail on the later battles that unfolded over young Audrey’s head.
This book shows love and respect for its subject in every page. Paris never has to say, “Oh, Audrey was so fantastic,” to show his reverence for her. The love is in the details. He gently corrects all other biographies’ previous misconceptions and incorrect information with proven fact and exhaustive interviews, and by the vast amounts of meticulous information that just needed to be put out once and for all. Sometimes this information can be a bit much, though. Some readers may start twitching in the middle of Audrey’s family tree, wanting to get on to the more well-known bits, or feel uncomfortable in the more war-torn sections. Personally, the great detail about Audrey’s slow death is too much for me. The first time I read this book I stole away to my bedroom and read on my bed, sobbing hysterically ’til the end. It might be interesting to know and maybe even interesting to read for some, but for me it’s just too much. It’s hard to handle reading about her pain and her patient suffering through it, and how Audrey asked her children to let her go because she was ready. Maybe it’s just because I’m a reader who visualizes what they read, but this was devastating.
Still, don’t let that alter your opinion or push you stay away from this book. If you were to ask, “If there was only one Audrey biography I should read, which would it be?” I would say without hesitation, “Barry Paris’s book.” In one volume you have a highly engaging and correct story, with a good collection of photos thrown in. Because I’ll be honest: I always look at the picture sections of biographies first. You can tell a lot about a biography by the pictures: if they’re all conventional photos you’ve seen everywhere, then the information is going to be the same. As an added bonus, Barry Paris is a well-known and well respected biographer who has also penned definitive biographies on Greta Garbo and Louise Brooks, so you can be assured that he treats all of his subjects with the utmost care and thoroughly researches everything before putting it on the page.