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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Candid confessions of a female icon, 8 May 2006
This review is from: My Life So Far (Paperback)
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.
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Location: Berlin, Germany

Top Reviewer Ranking: 44,593