A Story Lately Told lightly chronicles the actress Anjelica Huston’s early childhood years in Ireland, Europe, and America. During the 1950s and 60s her famous director father John Huston, and her mother Ricki moved in the highest circles of film society rubbing shoulders with everyone from Hemingway to Marilyn Monroe. To this end, Anjelica recalls what for her must be only a fraction of the famous names of the time that moved like scene sets through the living room of the grand manor house her father had bought in Ireland. She describes in heavy detail what she remembers of the decorations of the rooms; lesser so the parties, everyday life for her being raised by nannies and private tutors, and the fabulous life of luxury the adults seemed to exist in.
As she grew older and sensed discord in the lives of her parents, the glitter seemed to dim. Her father was an extremely demanding and hyper-intelligent man. A distant yet kind father: a playboy who went through women like chocolates, a difficult character who traveled the world with anything and anyone he wanted at his fingertips, a enigmatic wanderer. If anything I might read his autobiography! This upbringing served to instill in Angelica it seems, equal parts strength and fragility. She became a stubborn wild child who also had a tender heart and cried at the drop of a hat.
Anjelica is an actress that I happen to like very much, but a writer she is not. The famous names at times are bewilderingly loaded into the paragraphs. The plays or movies she saw, writers and painters she met, likewise. Huston’s childhood was unlike most of us will ever have, rich and stocked with privilege. Huston herself seems quite unspoiled by it all, and a pleasant person to boot, yet you can sense the strangeness of it all; how different the mindset of the people around her were from us plebians. It would be a fascinating look into the life of modern upper society, but it’s only a glimpse.
I was hopeful to read about her early years of modeling, alas it is all mentioned in a breeze like the rest. There was also a dedicated lack of pictures, which really could have added a sense of realism to this fairy-tale. Of course her real life was far from perfect and she unflinchingly tells us the truth, but as is the case with the whole biography, it’s like seeing it through a thick curtain. The emotion and the richness are on the paper, but they don’t reach the reader’s imagination or heart. Wah!
All in all a decent book, but boring. Her second effort (which I read first) Watch Me by contrast is much more stocked with Angelica the person, yet overall fails in the same way to really engage the reader. A Story Lately Told would more aptly be titled ‘What It Was Like To Grow Up As John Huston’s Child’ and as such, disappointing.