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No Regrets: A Biography of Edith Piaf
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No Regrets: A Biography of Edith Piaf

3.55 of 5 stars 3.55  ·  rating details  ·  202 ratings  ·  44 reviews
Edith Piaf was one of the most greatly loved singers of the 20th century. From the start of her exceptional career in the 1930s, her waif-like form and heart-wrenching voice endeared her first to the French, then to audiences around the globe. In this biography Carolyn Burke gives us Piaf in her own time and place.
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published April 1st 2011 by Bloomsbury UK (first published January 1st 2011)
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Even if you're not a devoteé of The Little Sparrow, her amazing life is well worth reading about. At least, I found myself transported to a time, and times as well as cultures I found myself ignorant of. This is especially true of Piaf's early life in Belleville, Normandy, and the streets. Although I've certainly read about show biz before, the Gallic version is different.

Burke presents the lyrics of the songs Piaf sang interspersed with the story of where she appeared. Both in French and Englis
Edith Piaf lived an amazing life. Tragic, triumphant, and utterly entertaining. It reads like fiction, but indeed Piaf's amazing story is true. She has a mother who was a prostitute and drug addict who abandoned her, so she lived in her grandmothers brothel. Then taken away for a time to live with her father a contortionist gypsy.

She was dicovered when she was pettling for cash on a street corner, singing. This tiny little 'sparrow' has a story you wouldn't believe.

I couldn't put it down. I also
Edith Piaf is an individuals whose life would seemingly make for an excellent biography: her mother was a failed singer who abandoned her, her father an acrobat who toured with the circus; she was raised in a brothel run by her grandparents. She is France's nightingale.
She is also a woman who understood her own myths and embellished them accordingly, thus making the truth somewhat difficult to determine. I am a huge E.P. fan and this is not the first biography I have read about her, however I w
Good comprehensive biography of a fascinating artist and woman. However I found the writing to be less than compelling. It seems to me that it's more of a vanity project for the author to show off her knowledge of facts & dates than a real attempt to explain the context and history for her readers. For example, she switches wildly between calling people by their proper and nicknames and in some instances name drops celebrities of the era without telling you what they were actually a celebrit ...more
Jenny Brown
This tedious biography goes overboard in trying to heroicize its subject, but nevertheless presents her in a very unflattering way. Like most biographies of celebrities who left few or boring letters, it too often turns into a dull list of gigs followed by snippets of reviews.

The author's attempt to suggest that Piaf became an intellectual is strained and reeks of whitewashing. In the few scenes where Piaf actually comes to life in this book, we are left with the impression of her as an overwhe
fox bronte
Really difficult to get through.
Repeats itself. Doesn't go into much details...
though - if there aren't details there in the first place -
why bother writing the book?
Maybe we want a story that only Piaf herself knows to any extent.
And her past was probably so painful that she never really told
anyone her story. Whats left is just the highlights -
but nothing deeper.

The author tried... but doesn't make the book any better.

If edith read this, the song would have gone...
Non, Je ne regrette rie
Rosie Beck
Loving biography of the truly remarkable Edith Piaf. From her early life-abandoned by her parents and raised in her grandparents brothel-until her father, a circus contortionist, takes her "on the road" to perform with that heavenly voice, one realizes how impassioned she was with music. France's "little sparrow" climbed to the top. Her connections with Lepee, a possible mobster from the very seedy Pigalle, through an astonishing amount of lovers to the death of her one true love Marcel Cerdan a ...more
This is the first biography that I have read. I was hoping for more info about the atmosphere that surrounded Piaf through the years. There were a lot of facts about where she preformed and who she collaborated with and dated, in fact so many it was a bit boring at times. I fell like I know a lot more about Piaf, but I don't know who she really was in many respects.
Joy H.
RE: _No Regrets_ (2011) by Carolyn Burke
(Skimmed only.) (This review has private notes.)
3/25/11 - I saw this book featured in a NY Times review. It sounded interesting. See the review at:
I hope to read it when it becomes available at our town library.

Wiki says that Edith Piaf's original name was Édith Giovanna Gassion.
The NY Times review says:
"Louis Leplée hired her to sing at his prestigious but mob-connected cabaret,
Fantastic. The best and most thorough biography of Piaf that I have read so far. I was on my monthly library trip (or book orgy as I like to call it) when I came across this book. I was of course thrilled as Piaf is one of my great loves and obsessions. I adore her music as well as her as a person.
I have read everything I can find on her and sadly, much of it is so terribly slanted it is difficult to suss out the woman beneath the myth. I believe this book does such a good job of that. It does
I really enjoyed the earlier parts of the book and felt those chapters were the strongest, when the author painted a vivid picture of Piaf's young life in Paris with a father who was a circus performer and a mother of the streets. As the book went on, it sometimes felt more like reading a chronology of how Piaf's life progressed without as much emotional or scenic details as I would have liked. I really appreciated the author's details about her friends and about the concerts.
Robert Morrow
While it started in promising fashion and was not as blatantly lurid as the ridiculous film that won Cotillard an Oscar for best overacting, the narrative becomes rather dull and repetitive as Piaf falls deeper and deeper into narcissism and the author looks on such folly with general approval. In the end, I don't think anyone can really write a great biography of Piaf, a thoroughly unpleasant character who happened to possess one of the greatest voices of all time.
The life of Edith Piaf was extraordinary. I was impressed how courageous and fearless she was, but she definitely had her dark sides - like completely ignoring her deteriorating health, or being self-centered for much of her life.

Unfortunately I didn't like the biographers style throughout the book. I always felt like someone is digesting written information from other sources which is what every biographer must do -- but I didn't like the way it was presented.
Liked it, didn't love it. Full of facts,undoubtedly well researched and arranged, I kept feeling like I was reading a very long research paper. Not until the last third did I start to get some sense of the authors voice or any indication that she cared at all about the subject.

Admittedly, I seldom read biographies so I don't have much to compare it to. Even so, I get the sense that something was lacking in the author's account of Piaf's life. Piaf's life seemed so full, so energetic, so varied.
glbt tag for her having quite a lot of queer friends and coworkers.

disability tag for her massive chronic debilitating ailments.

I love that this was as well-researched as it could possibly have been, given the subject matter. I think I just wish there were more to the story. The last quarter of the book dissolves into a litany of Edith's illnesses, addictions, and incessant touring and convalescence, while the best and most interesting parts are everything from her harrowing childhood through he
Interesting read, but a lot of facts to plow through. I enjoyed attempting to translate the French lyrics that are prolific throughout the book. I had a difficult time trying to keep track of all of Edith's men (and there were plenty). The book had some great photos. Although the song titles were not familiar to me, once I googled them, I recognized the melodies. Now I have to watch La Vie En Rose again so that I can match up all the characters with the information I read in the book.
Very well balanced book on the little sparrow's life. Especially enjoyed the sections on how the songs she sang came about. She was a huge talent and I will enjoy hearing her sing even more now that I know more about her experiences and passions.
Feb 06, 2012 Renate marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Marked this book as 'to read' after seeing the review in the Telegraph:

Was fascinated by her half sister, Simone Bertaut's book Piaf and am curious to see what this one says as it seems to imply that Simone wasn't alltogether truthful.
The Book : An Online Review at The New Republic
DAFFY DUCK, plotting giddily to out-maneuver Bugs Bunny, takes a crowbar to the signs announcing “Duck Season Open” in the establishing scene of Chuck Jones’s great Looney Tunes cartoon Duck! Rabbit, Duck! Our cue to the futility of the scheme, the detail that makes Daffy’s cluelessness apparent, is the fact that, as he works, he casually hums Edith Piaf’s “Le Vie en Rose.” Read more...
If (accurate) Piaf information on her early and personal life is as difficult to come by as Burke says it is, then this book really deserves 3.5 stars, because she did the best she could with what material she had. But still, I wish there was less deconstruction (or, really, simply translation) of Piaf's lyrics and more of what really made Edith Edith Piaf. A good, quick read, though, and one that fans of Piaf should probably add to their list.
Much more comprehensive than the autobiography, this volume answers most of the questions I was left with after watching the confusing and somewhat superficial biopic La Vie en Rose.
It seems that Edith proved the maxim that one must suffer for their art. A truly extraordinary life.
Very impressively researched, and overall, it was good, but I would have preferred to be given more on Edith Piaf herself.Her story is overshadowed in this book by song lyrics, snippets of correspondence, and critical reviews and articles. I feel that the overabundance of information bogged the book down, and took away from the story of a fascinating woman that lived many lifetimes in one very short one.
I wanted very badly to like this book because I love Edith Piaf and wanted to learn more about her life. I only made it 1/2 way through the book and I couldn't go on. As a previous reviewer stated, the book is basically a list of her gigs by year with some of her personal life thrown in. Very tedious to read.
While my computer was broken, I was able to find this wonderful book at the library and I read it so fast, as I could not put it down!!....It was beautiful and tragic, uplifting yet filled with sorrow! I am so glad I had the luxury of reading about such a wonderful human being!
Of course I liked it, yes I am biased; it has Edith Piaf in it. A carny-like environment growing up,a powerful 'untrained' voice, and a penchant for bad boys pretty much fixed Piaf's fate. A sympathetic blinkers off bio made me dig out scratchy old albums.
I know this singer from her one most famous song but cannot even now remember the name of that song.

So her life story is interesting to me, as she became worldwide famous and grew up very poor with a difficult childhood.
Nancy Craighead
When I stop and think about the person and the times portrayed in this book, I think Edith Piaf must be one of the world's most fascinating human beings. This book, unfortunately, was one of the most boring books I have read.
Angie Never
Sadly this book mainly read like a list. Edith Piaf sang this song, then met this man, then sang this song, etc. Despite a subject matter who lived a very dramatic life, the book comes off as very dry.
Lynn Kearney
Nothing much new in this, but a reminder that there was more to E.P. than the superstitious neurasthenic other bios have presented. Made me want to go and listen to all my old Piaf recordings.
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