“‘For once in your life, Mummy,’ Luca pleaded to his mother, ‘use your bloody name!'”
Twenty-eight years after her passing, Audrey Hepburn remains the most beloved of all Hollywood stars, known as much for her role as UNICEF ambassador as for films like Roman Holiday and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Several biographies have chronicled her stardom, but none has covered her intense experiences through five years of Nazi occupation in the Netherlands or her humanitarian work with UNICEF.
Dutch Girl- Audrey Hepburn and World War II sheds light on the riveting, untold story of Audrey Hepburn under fire in World War II through Audrey’s own reminiscences, new interviews with people who knew her in the war, wartime diaries, and research in classified Dutch archives.
Warrior: Audrey Hepburn completes the story arc of Dutch Girl and takes the reader through her journey with UNICEF to become a humanitarian working in war-torn countries in the Third World on behalf of children and their mothers in desperate need. She set the standard for celebrity humanitarians and–according to her son Luca Dotti–ultimately gave her life for the causes she espoused.
I was in my mid-to-late teens when I first saw My Fair Lady, How to Steal a Million, and Charade and thought Audrey Hepburn was the most elegant woman ever. I haven’t read any books on her so I requested an ARC of Warrior on NetGalley because I was eager to read about her life post stardom.
Warrior follows Hepburn’s transition from being a Hollywood icon to becoming a Goodwill Ambassador with UNICEF. Her experiences during the war, which included the murders of family members, her survival through starvation, and working for the Dutch Resistance, made her determined to become the voice of the voiceless. She was meticulous in her study of the region she was heading to and could count the numbers off the top of her head. She would charge fearlessly into dangerous territory if her being there meant getting aid to those in need. She made sure to spread the word about the help and attention these places needed and was instrumental in raising funds like never before.
Warrior shows a side to Audrey Hepburn one cannot imagine for a woman of her stature. She fought passionately for UNICEF’s cause and worked on the frontline. At the same time, she loved being home in Tolochenaz picking fruit and spending time with her two sons. Not one to use her status as a movie star and fashion icon, she was extremely private about her life during the war. She experienced much blood and death by the time she turned sixteen but never admitted to the horrors she had witnessed. She lived a life of grace that made her a global force.
“They’re very happy to see me, because they know I come from UNICEF. And that they do know about. They don’t know Paramount Pictures, but they do know UNICEF.”
I was so incredibly moved reading Warrior that I had to know more about her early life. It prompted me to pick up Dutch Girl to understand how her struggle during the war shaped her experiences and decisions in later years.
According to her son, Luca Dotti, “The war made my mother who she was.” In addition to participating in the Dutch Resistance, working as a doctor’s assistant during the “Bridge Too Far” battle of Arnhem, the brutal execution of her uncle, and the ordeal of the Hunger Winter of 1944, she also had to contend with the fact that her father was a Nazi agent and her mother was pro-Nazi for the first two years of the occupation. But the war years also brought triumphs as Audrey became Arnhem’s most famous young ballerina which was a stepping stone to her career on stage and screen.
Robert Matzen’s research removes the glossy Hollywood filter and shows the woman before she tasted global fame. He not only tracks Audrey Hepburn’s journey but describes the events and history at the time to provide context. At some point I felt the book covered more about the war than Hepburn’s life. However, the parts of history collated from archives does add a multi-dimensional perspective.
A visceral character sketch of a woman who refused to be broken by the war until her last breath, these capture an intimate account of Audrey Hepburn’s extraordinarily courageous life.
1. Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II (2019)
Book 42-43 of 2021.
Aquamarine Flavours Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟.
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