on 8 May 2006
I think the most positive thing about this book is Jane Fonda's revelation that she, like so many women of her generation, has forever been entrenched in the classic father-daughter drama: "All my life I had been a father's daughter, trapped in a Greek drama, like Athena, who sprang fully formed from the head of her father, Zeus - disciplined, driven." She admits to spending her lifetime swimming in the slipstreams of men - first siding as a child with her famous dad (the back flap has a picture of her intently gazing at him whilst he looks away), following him into the acting business, then taking shelter in a series of marriages with powerful, awe-inspiring men. In each relationship she seemed to take on a new self, engaging in threesomes with prostitutes to please French director Roger Vadim, morphing into a political fundraiser for Democrat Tom Hayden and becoming a careerless, corporate wife with breast implants for media mogul and ex-Republican Ted Turner.
This is what she diagnoses as "the disease to please", which leads women to dissociate their heads from their bodies and to subjugate themselves to oppression so as to retain the love of their men. But just when you think a clear feminist narrative and a whole, integrated identity are managing to emerge, Fonda goes and throws herself down at the altar of the fathers of patriarchy in the third act of her life and embraces Christianity, whilst simultaneously preaching of the importance of 'leaving the father's house'.
This is just one of many paradoxes to Jane Fonda. She seems to have spent most of her life ricocheting between radical poles of behaviour like a true chameleon: fitness queen in lycra with a huge empire (17 million videos sold! They're coming out on DVD soon!) and engaged feminist; protesting against the Vietnam war whilst remaining pro-soldier and expressing patriotic sentiments about her country; dropping the politics after the war to return to the Hollywood industry, and so on. For me, her autobiography became a pull between empathy and irritation: just as she starts to annoy with her narcissistic obsession with herself and naivity, she then manages to undersell her acting achievements. There are in fact many moments of profound sadness: the violent suicide of her mother when she was 12, her frustrated relationship to her father, the eating disorders and Dexedrine dependency, and the emotional impotence of her husbands.
Through all this she remains generous and honest. That's what stands out at the end of the near-600 pages of her book: the exuberant force of her candour but also the crucial importance of practising and integrating what you preach to embody an authentic and centred identity and move into a freer, more conscious life.
on 14 April 2005
When I first looked at this book I thought that any book by Jane Fonda could not be worth 5 stars. I pretty well had made up my mind on 4 stars, even before I broke the cover and turned the first page, especially since there is a picture of a sexy young Jane on the back cover. Obviously she is still selling sex. But given the length of the book and the amount of detail, it is hard not to give her full marks.
I picked up a copy at a local outlet of a national chain bookstore where they had installed a special display rack just for her book. It held three books deep, five across and five shelves high, or about 75 books or more. That compares with a dozen or so books for most other best selling authors. So the stores and Amazon.com are geared up for this book; in all likelihoods it will not disappoint the book stores. It is a fairly well executed job - overall.
The book is just under 600 pages - very long - and divided into three sections 0 to 30 years, 30 to 60, and post 60 years of age to simplify the division, and that covers 39 chapters. The post 60 part is short, and the middle section is fairly long. She has lots of excellent photos from her families, movies, the ranches, protests, Vietnam, etc. but instead of two or three groups of pictures, they are spread throughout the book, so the text and photos go together, and this makes the whole book a lot more effective. She takes us through the ups and downs of her life including the troubled marriages, the activism, the movies, etc. and the reader gets an idea of how she has evolved, changed, survived, and what are her present values, and what is her present direction. There are chapters on her father and the family, another on his death, various movies including On Golden Pond, her marriages including Ted Turner, the various causes she was involved in during the early years such as native rights, the anti-war movement, and later religion and finding herself in life, plus many more topics that cover all 39 chapters.
But do we want to read about all her inner thoughts and small details from the 1960s and the 1970s - a good part of the book? In many cases I did not. There is just too much information here; most people will probably not be that interested in every word and comment; one wonders if the main audience for the book is Jane herself. Perhaps she wrote it as some kind of therapy to come to grips with her life. For example, it takes about 60 pages or so just to go through her childhood, and we do not meet Hayden until about halfway through the book, around page 277.
In short, the book is easy to read and well crafted and deserves 5 stars. The question is this: do you want to know all the small details of Jane's life including her activities as a radical in the 1960s and later, and what were her innermost thoughts? Also, a lot of the good parts of the story have already been printed in the press, such as parts of the section on her trip to Hanoi and when she first went out with Ted. So much of the interesting stuff is already out. If you want to learn more, and all of her inner thoughts and the small details in the life of Jane Fonda, and how her life and philosophy has evolved and changed - then this 600 page book is for you. She has had a complicated and interesting life. For me it was a little too much about Jane. But I will give her credit. It is a good job and a mostly an interesting read. Most will like the book and you can always skip some of the 39 chapters if you find that some parts are too much.
on 30 April 2005
Although it has been about fifteen years since Jane Fonda last appeared in a film, the superb actress, with two Academy Awards under her belt for being the BEST at her craft, has done so much more in her life, with her life, than perform on the Big Screen. For those too young to have seen her the first time around in "Barbarella," "Cat Ballou," "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" "Klute," "Julia," "Coming Home," "On Golden Pond," and so many other movie greats, all the publicity surrounding "My Life So Far" might stir the interest of younger folks to view Ms. Fonda's extensive repertoire. I can't think of a more worthwhile and entertaining endeavor.
For me, a film lover and Jane Fonda fan from way back, this autobiography held many surprises. My longtime image of Ms. Fonda has always been of a woman secure within herself, grounded, self-assured. Au contraire. The product of a privileged background, intelligent, creative, beautiful, talented, Jane was not as aware of her strengths as she was of her perceived weaknesses, which she really homed-in on. It is not difficult to understand the roots of her tremendous lack of self-esteem and neediness. Reading about the Fonda family, their interactions and life together while Jane and her brother, Peter, were growing up, is terribly sad. Her father was withdrawn, brooding, and distant. His lack of presence in his children's lives had a tremendous impact.For years she felt tremendous guilt for not saying a final goodbye to her mom Katherine Hepburn, who worked with both Henry and Jane in the movie, "On Golden Pond," noted the actor's extremely cold attitude toward his daughter. It appears that even at the end of Henry Fonda's life, including the evening Jane accepted the Oscar for Best Actor for him, he never gave her the approval she so longed for.
The memoir is divided into three parts, or 3 Acts, in which she chronicles her life so far in this highly readable narrative: growing up in Hollywood; student life at Vassar; Jane as Barbarella, Jane as committed political activist, with an interesting take on her controversial trip to Hanoi during the Vietnam War; her second marriage to student activist/politician Tom Hayden, her third to Ted Turner, motherhood; betrayal and infidelity, (I was more shocked by the behavior of her three husbands, than by the various menages in France, where at least Jane was invited to participate); Christianity and her religious faith; etc., etc.. This is a vital woman who has been involved in many important artistic, political, and athletic/sports events during the last fifty years. She has met some of the world's most interesting people, and even lived with a few. I admire the hard work she has done to understand herself. Therapy has obviously played a major role in her life and I really respect this. It demonstrates her commitment to growth and renewal. She is a survivor.
Her present work and energies involve the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention, (G-CAPP), which she founded in 1995 and chairs. In 2002, she opened the Jane Fonda Center for Adolescent Reproductive Health at Emory University's School of Medicine.
Like some contemporary political figures, Jane Fonda seems to inspire an extreme, almost visceral reaction from people - folks seem to either love her or hate her. Few are indifferent. Whatever one's feelings, it is impossible to deny this woman's talent, intellect, complexity, dynamism and the contributions she has made to our society.
It is rumored that Ms. Fonda wrote this book herself, an oddity nowadays with so many ghost written "tell all" memoirs on the market. I don't doubt for a moment that she is the author. She has proven to be extremely talented in many areas, with a variety of endeavors, over the years. Why not writing? I highly recommend this fast paced, well written autobiography. It informs and fascinates. Kudos!
on 24 February 2007
I was interested in reading Jane Fonda's autobiography after watching her on a talk show. She was already a star when I was born, but I remember watching her movies as Coming HOme,On Golden Pound or China Sindrome on tv and I knew she was a political activist during the Vietnam war. I was taken aback with the frankeness and honesty on her report of all childhood problems, love relationships, and her fight with bulimia, drugs and drink throughout her life. From the book you can understand the radical changes she's taken in her life.Even so, it amazes me how she dedicated so much of her time and money for the causes she believed in. It is a very inspirational book,made me think about several things. And I think that it was her goal, by telling so openly how she overcame her inner issues and problems, to make people think about themselves. I strongly recommend the book also for the insight on the movie industry and American history for the past 30 years or so...
on 4 September 2012
Of course, Jane Fonda apart from being a fantastic actress in her own right, is mainly known as the daughter of the late Henry Fonda, sister of Peter Fonda and aunt of Bridget Fonda. She is also known for speaking out in the 60's during the Vietnam war and has been a voice for many issues over the years. Her autobiography is pretty well packed. A very intelligent woman and quite a force, she tells of her childhood and the effect her parents marriage had on her. She is also quite candid about the choices she made through life whether good or bad. Her mother Frances committed suicide when Jane was 10 years old, after being asked for a divorce by Henry. Jane's relationship with her parents wasn't particularly close and this had a profound effect on Jane later in life. Although very fond of her father and trying to do everything she could to please him, in her marriages she felt that she needed to do right by her husbands at the time for fear of losing them.
However, she has her father's work ethos and in both her acting and campaigning careers, into which she certainly threw her heart and sole. A wonderful autobiography which I think many of us will be able to relate to at least one or two of the issues she raised in the book. It makes you think about your own life, abilities and ghosts that one carries from the past. It makes you look at things differently and realise that life isn't easy for everyone, even the rich and successful. Everyone has their flaws in life.
on 31 July 2005
It's an exhausting but absorbing read. Fonda has done a superb job of taking us on a whirl wind tour of her 67 plus years. It's all in there; her film career, her life in politics, her three husbands, life in France and America, her extended family set up, her involvement in Vietnam, her aerobic work out years, her tireless work on behalf of the under dog, etc. True to herself and her beliefs even at the risk of upsetting those she left behind (father, husbands, children, friends) she wasn't afraid to move on and pursue her vision. She writes in an intelligent, honest and engaging manner. She is certainly a talented and courageous lady, but making movies afforded her personal and financial freedom which few women have, and I suppose one has to forgive her self centredness. I respect her for not just being a 'talker', but also a 'doer'. Well done Jane, may your third act be as impressive.
on 2 March 2012
"My Life So Far" by Jane Fonda is a thoughtful, heartfelt, courageous memoir. What interested me most was not so much Fonda's successful career (41 movies, Academy Awards, an Emmy, a producer of four popular movies and her best selling home video fitness workout) but how she dealt with her parent's abandonment and its effect on subsequent relationships. Having had a similar childhood I could relate to her anxiety about losing oneself in a mates orbit. Of special interest was her relationship with Ted Turner, her third husband, where she jokes he is the only person she knows who has had to apologize to the public more than she has.
About ten years later she realized she had tried to please her mates at her own expense. She felt her relationship with Turner had stopped deepening that the scheduled activities had become a lateral repetition and felt homeless moving among their 20 houses.
Since the U.S. war in Iraq and the Gulf Coast's devastation after Hurricane Katrina Fonda's reasons for getting involved in the Vietnam War are of special interest. In June 1972 she filmed and took pictures of how President Nixon bombed the locks and dams of the rice fields in North Vietnam. Since the 2,500 mile long Red River Delta is below sea level the bomb craters among the earthen dikes could have caused hundreds of thousands of people to drown or die of starvation during the monsoon season. Nixon also ordered underwater explosive mines to be placed in the Haiphong Harbor to prevent food from being imported. Although George H. Bush, the U.S. Ambassador to the UN, denied the bombing and mines excerpts from Nixon's April-May transcripts confirm it.
Fonda believes her trip to Hanoi may have helped end the U.S. bombing of the dikes as they stopped in August.
She gives a heartfelt apology for her bad judgment in sitting on a Vietnamese gun seat. She said she had joined the Vietnamese in singing a song and did not think about where she was seated. The photo did not mean the U.S. servicemen were the enemy.
Fonda said her 1972 visit could not have caused the torture of the POWs as the torture in the prison camps stopped in 1969. She said the Nixon administration continued to claim POW torture to keep U.S. hostilities alive to justify the war. The FBI admitted keeping Fonda under surveillance from 1970-1973 using illegal counter intelligence techniques to "neutralize" her, seize bank records, open mail, search her office and home without a subpoena. Fonda expresses concern about the Patriot Act which rolls back the post Watergate protections.
"My Life So Far" is a candid, important memoir written by a courageous woman.
Jane Fonda has resilience, guts and intelligence. This is a book written with wit, honesty and a full life. She has written her life in three acts, gathering, seeking and beginning. It is filled with insight from a life of privilege but not much love. Along the way, she shares her memories and what she has learned that she thinks is relevant.
In Gathering, Jane starts with her earliest memories, the love she had for her father, and the distance she felt for her mother. When her mother and father divorce, life changes and life with mother is not a bed or roses. Upon reflection, mother was mentally ill and had all the symptoms. She spent a great deal of time in mental institutions, and then she died, and Jane and her brother and step sister were left with grandmother and/or the newest girlfriend of her father, Henry. Life was tough and Jane grew up aching for love from her father. She rarely felt she measured up. This is the period of life where she grew her resilience, she learned to live and love, and started her career as an actress of some renown.
In Seeking, Jane lives her life with three ex-husbands, all of them remain friends and she has good things to say about them all. They all contributed to her life, but she felt stifled by marriage. She had two children and loved them, but she admits she was not there for them. She realizes now with her grandchildren what she missed. Jane became famous and the world was hers, but as she said, she began seeking the woman she was to become.
Jane is in the Beginning phase of Act 3, now, exploring her life. She lives life on her terms. She became a protester and lived her life for causes and is still embroiled in them. She is trying now to make up for lost time with her children, giving them lessons she learned along the way. This has been a marvelous life in many ways, and she realizes that life has been good to her.
This is a book that is written with love and lessons learned. I enjoyed it immensely, Her writing style is filled with tales that gave her experiences such vivid realism. Her insights into women and their fight to achieve a life of their own is startling. She has studied many areas of her interests, and she shares those lessons. This is a book I would recommend to every woman and to every man.
Highly Recommended. prisrob 03-14-11
on 21 July 2009
At a time when most bestselling autobiographies are of people under the age of 30 with little more to talk about than fame through a reality TV show, followed by a perfume line and spell in re-hab, this is a wonderful tonic. Jane Fonda is a political, vocal and insightful woman with a fascinating rich life that is hugely compelling. From childhood tragedy, Holywood royalty, political activity and beyond, Fonda has stories upon stories to tell. For my British sensibilities I found the extensive Vietnam war chapters a little too long, but otherwise a great and insightful autobiography that will resonate with all women of all ages.
on 14 August 2005
Finally one genuine and sincere autobiography!Seems to me that Jane Fonda has been very honest and open towards herself and her readers.This is a touching, moving, inspirational, fascinating and absorbing read. I like this un-embelished, true story of a woman who has been looking for the true self throught all of her life and finally has been brave enought to share her experiences with others. The book is very well written, easy to read and extremely hard to stop reading.
Woman who feel that their body and mind are disconnected, who feel that their lives are taken away by other people (their husbands, children etc) and their needs ignored by themselves and others will be very surprised that even famours Jane Fonda have had similar experience. This book can inspire them to find themselves.
For men this book can reveal some secrets of female's souls.
This isnt a book for readers who are looking for very intimate and schocking details from J.Fondas or her husbands lives. Jane Fonda very considerately does not reveal anything that, as she wrotes, could hurt those who are still alive. My respect for that.