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I don't often read non-fiction and I almost never read biographies because who can tell how much of it is true and how much is rumor or gossip. As for autobiographies, well, most non-writers who actually have interesting lives usually end up taking some ghost writer to help them tell their stories to the world, and they usually produce stilted and/or bombastic volumes. If they don't take a ghost writer, their work ends up sounding amateurish at best, or boring at worst. Not so with "Me: Stories of My Life" by Katharine Hepburn.
Katharine Hepburn was my all-time favourite actress in the world - if not my all-time favourite personality in general. When she passed away, I was devastated and knew I had to buy a book about her. After looking at what was on offer regarding biographies, I saw this book and thought "hm... that sounds different". Little did I know exactly how different it would be and what a marvelous choice I had made.
First of all, I should comment on the writing style. To tell you the truth, this book is more like reading diary entries than reading an autobiography. One could even say that there are times when you're reading this book that you might feel as if the amazing Kate was talking to you directly - at least I did. In fact, throughout most of the books I could hear her voice, see her smile and twinkle in her eyes. Mind you, sometimes this type of style can be a touch confusing, especially when she was trying to recount conversations. But with just a tiny bit of perseverance you'll get over that quite easily. If I had to sum her writing style in general, I'd say that it's human, realistic and highly conversational. Certainly there's nothing stand-offish or overly-intellectual in her writing.
And the truth is, one might think that someone who came from such a high-class East Coast family, went to university (back in the days when this wasn't a given for women), and then became a huge star of both stage and screen that you might expect a touch of snobbery in their autobiography. And you must admit that there's a certain amount of ego that must go into the undertaking of writing an autobiography. But this is totally not true for Kate. No, everything that Katharine Hepburn did and achieved, she took with a sense of humour and a grain of salt and with all due humility (and sometimes more humility than she deserved). And this comes through in her book like gangbusters! For instance, she seems to point up her failures and mistakes far more than her successes.
So what does she talk about? Of course you'll read about her early career and how she got into movies. Certainly you'll read about her family and their influence on her. You'll be a touch surprised at what she has to say about some of her relationships - for instance, from her telling it, her relationship with Howard Hughes is absolutely nothing anywhere at all near what you saw between Cate Blanchett and Leonardo DiCaprio in "The Aviator" (and this book was published long before that movie came out. This makes you wonder why the writers of that screenplay didn't read that part of this book before making Katharine look so ridiculous in that movie). Accounts of some of the movies she both loved and hated are included. We get some lovely pictures added, as well. And what book about Hepburn would be complete if it didn't have something about Spenser Tracey. However, you'll read more about her feelings for this wonderful actor than about anything romantic, sexual or controversial.
In fact, this book is far more anecdotal than any straight forward account of Hepburn's life. Hence the title "Me: Stories of my Life". It truly is a book of stories - told much as if you were having a friendly talk with the great lady herself while having a cup of coffee and a piece of cake (with chocolate ice cream, of course). Yes, if I had to sum this book up in one word, I'd say that it is 'friendly'. Even the parts where she talks about difficulties she went through are accounted in a friendly way.
So in conclusion, why not make a friend of the late, great, Kate by reading this book? You'll find it easy reading, with an enjoyable and approachable style and, above all, friendly. Trust me on this one - you'll never regret it, I assure you. Highly recommended and I must give it a full five stars out of five! Bravo, Kate, you've kissed us again!
Thanks for Reading!
Davida Chazan © June, 2006.
Available from Amazon.co.uk in paperback (352 pages) for £7.19 or via the marketplace from £0.96
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd (3 Sep 1992)
Katharine Hepburn reflects on her childhood and youthful misadventures. She tells us about the ups and downs of her career, her early experience in the theatre and her rise to stardom. She describes her warm and sometimes stormy relationships with David Lean, George Cukor, Howard Hughes, Leland Hayward, Cary Grant and Louis B. Mayer among others. And in a book that is pervaded with love - love of parents, love of family, being loved and loving - she tells us about the love of her life: Spencer Tracy.