Not a sweeping life story
Author: Drew Barrymore
Reviewed by: S.A.
Celebrities find it imperative to share their life stories in autobiographical books, especially if they can make a few million dollars in the process. Some artists actually do come up with touching and inspiring tomes, but most of the time, literary skills are optional in such endeavours and a fine-tooth comb is needed to find any substance in the often vapid content. A combination of genuine and idle curiosity results in substantial sales of such volumes, which in turn leads to constant new additions to the celebrity memoir bookshelf.
Drew Barrymore published one such book last year, titled Wildflower. Reluctant to call it a memoir, the actress instead described the book as ‘an elaboration on times in [her] life as [she] remember[s] them’ and ‘not a sweeping life story’, which is just another way of saying that it is even less substantial than most celebrity memoirs usually are.
The book offers a collection of reminiscences from the American film star’s life as she shares random personal stories in no particular order. The content is a mix of anecdotes, ranging from childhood accounts to episodes that shed light on the more recent developments in her life.
Many of the chapters in the book are about her family. We get a glimpse of the troubles she had with her parents as a child that resulted in her becoming a kid with no guidance. The actress states that she never had a dinner with both of her parents (who separated before she was born); she describes her absentee father as the ‘kind of man you saw in small doses’ and talks about being emancipated from her mother at 14 and the experience of being on her own (and how laundry taught her how to tackle everything moving forward). Barrymore also writes about her most recent marriage and the joy of having her daughters, and gushes about her in-laws - or now her former in-laws, as she got a divorce from her third husband, Will Kopelman, a few months after this book was released. Wildflower is quite baby-centric as it was written soon after the birth of her daughters who are mentioned frequently in the text; the book even includes a letter to each of them.
The other main topic of the book is, of course, Hollywood. The former child star doesn’t dwell on her troubled youth, only mentioning her problems briefly in passing. Instead, she talks about things like her working partnership with Adam Sandler, going scuba diving and skydiving with Cameron Diaz, establishing her production company (Flower Films), and how Stephen Spielberg singlehandedly changed her life.
The actress switches from topic to random topic with each chapter, mentioning everything from her friends to her dogs to travelling, although she rarely takes a deep, satisfying look at any of the subjects she broaches. No matter what she is talking about, Barrymore comes off as guarded, unwilling to properly open up or share the more exciting stories from her clearly extraordinary life. The scant information on offer here is not particularly interesting to casual readers, which is why Wildflower is likely to appeal only to her most ardent fans.
Drew Barrymore seems more charming on screen than she does on paper. Her pieces read more like blog posts than book chapters, and the writing is pedestrian; a master of prose she certainly is not. For a volume that she states she had wanted to write for seven years, Wildflower is quite disappointing and leaves you wishing that if the actress really wanted to publish a book, she would have at least put in a little more effort and come up with something more interesting and memorable.