cover image Irving Berlin: A Daughter's Memoir

Irving Berlin: A Daughter's Memoir

Mary Ellin Barrett. Simon & Schuster, $22.5 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-671-72533-4

Irving Berlin's (1888-1989) oldest daughter here tells of growing up with the composer of some of America's most popular songs, including ``White Christmas,'' ``God Bless America'' and ``Easter Parade.'' Barrett (An Accident of Love) details her parents' well-publicized romance and marriage, which scandalized her mother's family, and describes life in a household with a Catholic mother from one of the country's wealthiest families and a Jewish father who earned millions with his music though his parents were penniless Russian immigrants. It was a storybook childhood, with loving parents, governesses and innumerable servants; homes in Los Angeles, the Catskills and New York City; and daily contact with the rich and the famous. Yet there was a dark side: the death of the Berlins' infant son; ``dry spells'' when the composer could not write; and periods of depression for both him and his wife, culminating in his later years as a virtual recluse. Barrett's bittersweet memoir is affectionate yet candid. Photos not seen by PW. (Nov.)