Hayley Westenra: In Her Own Voice
Many would consider Hayley Westenra to not have walked the earth long enough to justify an autobiography (plus the fact that this is her second book; an authorised biography, The World At Her Feet, written by Paul Little was published in 2004) but to dismiss this book on that criteria would be a shame. Of course it does not have the intrigues and knowledgeable voice of someone in their fifties, who has endured love lost and found, career setbacks and so fourth, but this book is not really supposed to be about that. At twenty years old at the time of writing the book, Westenra simply wants to document her young life in its own little chapter. Although Darren Henley helps write the book, it is told in the first person, and Henley succeeds at projecting out Westenra’s personality.
This book’s most appealing trait, perhaps, is the inside look of the music industry, not just from anyone’s eyes, but through the eyes of a child, and later a naive teenager. Hayley documents her journey through the industry with innocent sincerity, and what is so beautiful about it all is that she is still young enough to remember everything with utmost clarity; an advantage she has over older autobiographers. There is something charming about reading about the world through so much naivety and innocence. She will lose this narrative voice when she gets older so I can hardly regret that she has written this autobiography early on in her life.
Any Westenra fan knows the early story of her busking in Christchurch and entering numerous competitions, this area of her life is dealt with quickly enough to get onto her eventual record deals which are far more interesting. Anyone hoping for exposés or saucy secrets are to be disappointed, but the fact that she chooses to omit these kind of details makes it all the more refreshing. She is also seemingly aware of her strengths and weaknesses and is more than happy to share these with the world.
In Her Own Voice is a nice book. It is not fantastically gripping, and there are some chapters that you are itching to skip because, as always with extremely nice people, they tend to be on the duller side of things. It is a lot less sickly than her last book though, and there are certain points where you can read in between the lines to find that she has some negative opinions about people and situations without saying it out right (her paragraph on Charlotte Church is a good example of this).
I would, more than anything, recommend this to people who are interested in a career in music. She has some insights to share, and she is a fantastic role model to any budding star as she is so grounded and sincere. It is a highly readable, accessible and short enough book for young people to read and to be inspired.