Written by Candice Bergen
Audiobook read by Candice Bergen
Published by Simon and Schuster on April 7th 2015
Genres: Biography & Autobiography, Entertainment & Performing Arts, Personal Memoirs
Source: public library via Overdrive
In the follow-up to Knock Wood—her bestselling “engaging, intelligent, and wittily self-deprecating autobiography” (The New York Times)—Candice Bergen shares the big events: her marriage to a famous French director, the birth of her daughter, Murphy Brown, widowhood, falling in love again, and watching her daughter blossom.
A Fine Romance begins with Bergen’s charming first husband, French director Louis Malle, whose huge appetite for life broadened her horizons and whose occasional darkness never diminished their love for each other. But her real romance begins when she discovers overpowering love for her daughter after years of ambivalence about motherhood. As Chloe grows up, Bergen finds her comic genius in the biggest TV role of the 80s, Murphy Brown, and makes unwanted headlines when Dan Quayle pulls her into the 1992 presidential campaign.
Fifteen years into their marriage, Malle is diagnosed with cancer, and Candice is unflinching in describing her and Chloe’s despair over his death. But after years of widowhood, she feels the sweet shock of finding a different kind of soulmate. Candice takes us through the first years of her new marriage and shares the bittersweetness of watching Chloe leave home and flourish—and the comedy of a losing battle against those damn wrinkles and extra pounds.
A natural writer, Candice is hilarious, brutally honest, down-to-earth, and wise. She may be a beautiful Hollywood actress with a charmed life, but Candice is someone who can talk frankly about extraordinary events. Readers who pull up a chair will feel like they’ve just made a best friend.
It’s a truism that women define themselves by their relationships. Candice Bergen’s first autobiography, Knock Wood (1984), was a tale of growing up in a prominent Old Hollywood family and struggling to win her father’s approval through decades of sibling rivalry with a ventriloquist dummy. She picks her story up again in A Fine Romance, which explores the loves of the last thirty-odd years of her life: her husbands, her daughter Chloe Malle, and her career-making role as TV newswoman Murphy Brown. Having been a model, actress, and photojournalist, Bergen found that comedy–the family business–was what finally got her work taken seriously, and while the role of Murphy wasn’t expressly written for her, she and the character proved to be made for each other.
Ten years of work headlining a popular TV sitcom added to the challenges of Bergen’s fifteen years of marriage to French film director Louis Malle. The couple shared a sense of dedication to their work but pursued that work separately, and by Bergen’s estimation, they spent close to half their years together living apart because of it. The on-and-off mix of partnership and independence that resulted seems to have worked for them more often than not, but it contributed to continuing a pattern of difficult father-daughter relationships into another generation, and when Bergen married New York businessman Marshall Rose several years after Malle’s death, she was thoroughly unprepared for–and not terribly interested in–his expectations for a “traditional” wife.
But the finest of the romances Bergen writes about here doesn’t involve a role or a man. After years of ambivalence about the prospect, Bergen became a mother at the relatively advanced age of 39. She fell thoroughly in love with her daughter, Chloe Francoise, and remains so nearly thirty years later. Bergen is remarkably frank about the strain that her devotion to her child put on her relationship with her child’s father and its role in the sometimes prickly relationship between Louis and Chloe, and she makes no apologies for it.
“Remarkably frank” and “unapologetic” are descriptors that apply to the whole of A Fine Romance, actually, and they are a big part of why I found this autobiography so unexpectedly charming. Bergen is pretty well aware of her very privileged life, and doesn’t shy away from it–and if a well-off, well-known person frequently mentions other well-known people, places, and things when telling her own story, is it name-dropping or documenting her own personal experience? (I’ve decided it’s the latter, and if I find it occasionally annoying, it’s a reader’s problem and not a writer’s one.) But with all their elevated trappings, Bergen’s experiences of adult relationships, parenthood, and career ups-and-downs are universal enough. Her writing about them is candid, opinionated, humorous and disarmingly down-to-earth, and with a speaking voice even more distinctive than her written one, she’s the perfect choice to read A Fine Romance in audiobook. Murphy Brown was one of my favorite TV shows and characters during my first few post-college years, and I really enjoyed hearing Murphy read Candice Bergen’s words.
From Chapter One:
“It was midway through October 1985, as I waddled in a huge plaid tent dress through the ground floor of Bergdorf’s. I’d put on almost fifty pounds since becoming pregnant. A woman kept peering at me, looking away, looking back. Finally she approached. ‘You know, you have Candice Bergen’s face.’
“’But not her body,’ I said.
“Old friends saw me lurching along the street and burst out laughing. I scowled back. Would this baby be born in a hospital or at SeaWorld?
“The due date was the second half of October. I’d been hoping she’d arrive on Halloween, which was the day after my husband Louis Malle’s birthday. As the date grew closer, then passed, I went in for a checkup. Whoever was in there, she was hyperactive, that much was sure. She somersaulted and flipped around. Then she landed wrong. Her feet were tangled in the umbilical cord and she was upside down and feet first. There was a high risk of her cutting off the supply of oxygen and nutrients. A risk of brain damage.
“My obstetrician, the ironically named Dr. Cherry, was an affable, easygoing guy, but he grew concerned after the recent sonogram. ‘We need to think about scheduling a Cesarean,’ he told me. Meanwhile, I was to go home and stay in bed with my feet up. No activity. That would be interesting, as Louis and I lived in a two-story loft and were having people for dinner that night.
“That was the beginning of the real bonding. Until that point, I’d kept a bit of distance, thinking of the baby as a kind of invader in my comfortable routines. I’d dragged my feet about preparing her room. No longer. It was ready, wallpapered in tiny pink rosebuds. I’d bought a white rocker and a white crib with pink ticking on the mattress and bumpers and found a pink Kit-Cat clock whose eyes and tail moved rhythmically back and forth.
“Now the Alien was in jeopardy. I could not lose her”.