ME: Stories of my Life by Katharine Hepburn

I listened to this as an audiobook and the reader (Bernadette Dunne) does a marvelous job. I am an avid audiobook fan, and the performance of the narrator is CRUCIAL! Me: Stories of my Life is an interesting look into the life and mind of a profoundly private lady. The wrong reader could easily destroy the intimate tone created by the author.

Reading the autobiography/memoirs of such a famous person — with such a distinct and very famous voice — is not an easy task. Bernadette Dunne  doesn’t fall into the trap of doing an impression of Katharine Hepburn, which would have come across as annoying and mocking rather than invoking Ms. Hepburn. Unless an imitation is exact, it becomes either sarcastic or a constant reminder to the listener that the book’s reader is “doing” Katharine Hepburn. And it’s off. And it’s annoying. And 9 CDs is too long to listen to a bad imitation…

Instead, Bernadette Dunne subtly alters her own voice so that it calls the sound of Katharine Hepburn to mind, but doesn’t try to convince (or force) the listener to believe that it is actually Ms. Hepburn speaking. I don’t know if I’m being clear enough about the distinction I’m making…I have listened to many audiobooks narrated by Bernadette Dunne, and am very familiar with her voice and with the way she shapes sound. To read Me: Stories of My Life, Dunne deepens her voice a little, just adding a husky quality, and slips into what I call a New England drawl (an accent that’s crisp and posh, but also slow and drawl-y, dry, almost bored-sounding). Dunne is a deeply gifted voice actress. She brings Ms. Hepburn’s words and stories to life, using only her voice to reflect the wry humor, delight, and exasperation as well as the regret and sadness that Katharine Hepburn shares in her memoir.

Although there were parts of the book that I felt went on too long, or became too focused on details and lost the rhythm, I enjoyed Me: Stories of My Life very much. Katharine Hepburn was a true original, and a lovely and fascinating lady. (and I think her parents were amazing!) Ms. Hepburn’s writing and Ms. Dunne’s performance create an intimate, conversational experience that I would recommend to any biography/autobiography reader, to any fan of the old Hollywood, and especially to any fan of Katharine Hepburn’s. What a woman.

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