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Sarah (Jewish Lives)

3.35  ·  Rating details ·  144 Ratings  ·  41 Reviews

Everything about Sarah Bernhardt is fascinating, from her obscure birth to her glorious careerredefining the very nature of her artto her amazing (and highly public) romantic life to her indomitable spirit. Well into her seventies, after the amputation of her leg, she was performing under bombardment for soldiers during World War I, as well as crisscrossing America on her

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Published September 7th 2010 (first published September 3rd 2010)
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Nov 20, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A highly praised actress of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Sarah Bernhardt was an international figure known for her extravagent fashions, scandalous love affairs, and outrageous actions (such as owning a menagerie of animals and sleeping in a coffin). This book tells the story of her fascinating life from her neglected childhood to her rise to international fame. As Bernhardt was also an outrageous liar, the author takes into account her often questionable autobiographical descriptions ...more
Jun 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had heard of Sarah Bernhardt of course, but really knew nothing about her. What a splendid introduction and overview by Robert Gottlieb. Makes one breathless trying to keep up with her!
Despite her title as the “most famous actress in the world,” it is unlikely that many know of the French turn-of-the-century thespian/sculptor/silent film star, Sarah Bernhardt, but her celebrity compares well with that which we see today. Her public’s concern with her scandalous personal life, her fashion trendiness, and her scathing critics and caracatures (e.g. Chekhov) are precursors to the kind of media personality and media treatment of such personalities that has become common-place in th ...more
Judith Rich
I was given this as a gift and found it an interesting read. I feel quite thick that I'd not realised her non-French sounding surname was because she was Jewish and I therefore didn't know about the anti-Semitism she encountered. I realised on reading this how little I actually knew about her at all (just that she is one of the few women to have played Hamlet and that she lost her leg). She was a true celebrity of her time.
Jun 30, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012-read
I have the advantage of having read two other Bernhardt biographies: Madame Sarah by Cornelia Otis Skinner and The Divine Sarah by Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale which I highly recommend. When this book appeared I wanted to see how the author could possibly write Sarah's biography on 219 pages.
The answer, of course, is he cannot. What he can do is thoroughly research and read all of the books, articles, correspondence, etc (many in French) that we do not have access to and summarize. I see this
Evanston Public  Library
Among theatrical actors of the 1800s, the memorable names of but a paltry few have survived the test of time into our own century. The French actress Sarah Bernhardt is not only one of those few, but she arguably tops that list. Robert Gottlieb’s short-but-sweet biography gives humorous account of Sarah Bernhardt’s scandalous behavior (she might have been described as a courtesan…until, at least, the birth of illegitimate son), her eccentricities (she famously wore a stuffed-bat hat), and her un ...more
Lee Rene
Robert Gottlieb edited The Divine Sarah, the 1991 bio of Bernhardt by the late Robert Fizdale and Arthur Gold. The Divine Sarah was noteworthy for looking at Bernhardt's life through the prism of a scabrous work, The Memoirs of Sarah Barnum. Sarah Barnum was written by her enemies and ascribed to Marie Colombier, an anti-Semitic actress who was jealous of Bernhardt's success. In the years since The Divine Sarah was published, there has been a great deal of new information about Bernhardt that di ...more
Beth Sattes
I knew nothing about Sarah Bernhardt when I started this book...unfortunately I still wish I knew more, but in terms of her personal life, little is known. Most of what was written about her during her life time was either about her acting--or was written (and probably created) by her--in orhter words, questionable accuracy!
It did not keep me awake at night (a bit too dry for my taste) but it did leave me wishing I knew more. I never knew she was French, or Jewish, or traveled to America and Bri
Oct 18, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Sarah Bernhardt clearly took great pains during her career to create a larger-than-life persona to be her legacy. This book certainly gives a sense of the histrionics, the personal drama, and the (sometimes misplaced) determination that have kept this 19th/20th century actress' name on the lips of those in and out of the theatre community. While the book was not a particularly objectively written biography, I still enjoyed it as a work that did demonstrate to me the oversized life Sarah lived.
Sep 22, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not very well-written. I have never seen so many parenthetical asides in a work of non-fiction in my life. Also, the author spends alot of time referencing other biographies, then debunking much of what has been written with a wink and a nudge: "Well, this is what Sarah said happened, but we'll never know the real truth..." What? An actress creating her own mythlogy? How dare she? Frankly, I'd rather be entertained by the mythology-according-to-Sarah than slog through this cluttered attempt at r ...more
Feb 22, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2011
If I could give this one 3 1/2 stars, I think that I would. It's an interesting story about a truly fascinating woman. I like that Gottlieb acknowledges early on the complications of writing a biography about a woman who created an image out of a shell of falsehoods. He then goes to great pains to try to establish what the likely truth is. The only trouble for me was that I found myself caring very little what the truth was and wanting to just hear the stories. Truth is usually stranger than fic ...more
Oct 26, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rather textbook like in its presentation, nonetheless fascinating in content. Knowing very little about the Sarah Bernhardt when I started, Gottlieb presented and interesting chronology of her life and career. She was one moment stage dive and the next social activist. One moment ego centric star the next grounded mother and friend. So kudos to the author for piquing my interest in an intriguing personality I might have overlooked.
Cynthia Karl
An entertaining read - not great literature but very informative about an actress that I have heard of but did not know much about. Based on the information in the book, we would find her acting melodramatic and supremely histrionic today but what a character. Her fame occurred before movies and television and would not likely happen again. It is hard to imagine why American were so thrilled with her since all of her acting was in French but they did.
Aly Baiter
Lovely, to a point...fabulous account of the grand dame drama queen. An actress of immense talent. But, for the modern audience, I'm not so sure. I don't know that she evolved, rather became more grounded- as a person? (doubtful) self consumed- insomuch as herself as such a profound figure. 80% through & I just had it. I get it...persevered and finished the book. A good book if you're familiar w/ SB and find her interesting.
Nov 02, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oddly dry book for such a potentially engaging subject who lived such an interesting, bohemian life. The pictures were fascinating and her life made what otherwise was a dull and dry read worth my time. I was also somewhat put off by the author's annoying habit of diverting from the timeline without notice or reference to what year(s) he was writing about. In summary, I expected to be more entertained.
Jun 03, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
Gossipy, fun, only somewhat informative. Gottlieb has a habit of skipping around in the timeline and then, when plunging back into the story, neglecting to inform us of the date on which he has landed. There are a lot of informational gaps, which are sometimes frustrating.

For some reason, Gottlieb finds it really important to tell us, over and over, that Bernhardt wasn't really as skinny as contemporaneous accounts would have us believe.
Karen Yelton-Curtis
Interesting subject, not-so-interesting treatment of it. I felt as though the author was writing this biography out of obligation and not personal interest. I did appreciate the wide range of photos that accompanied the text because they helped me to understand Bernhardt's life in the theater and the people who influenced her. At a future date I would be inclined to read another book about Bernhardt for comparison.
Nov 26, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I knew nothing of Bernhardt before reading this book, and feel I know little more having read it! As a list of what she was in and when it is ok; as a pedestrian bit of undergraduate research it would merit a low grade; as an insight into the life of a fascinating woman it fails. A great disappointment.
Alex Myers
May 26, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nice and readable! This biography felt "intimate" in comparison to the "Divine Sarah." Admittedly, it is thinner in its scope and breezes past a few topics that needed to be delved into. Nonetheless, gave a great sense of the shape of Bernhardt's life and the importance of the work that she did. Also, lots of good pictures.
Karichi Du soleil
I'm not one who is much for biographies but this one was fairly interesting. Sarah her self is an interesting person but then again she IS an artist. This book isn't dry or boring nor is it hard to read, no unnecessary big words and flowery sentences. The author does jump around in times a bit which can throw you off but I enjoyed it. And there are tons of pictures! Gotta love pictures.
I was pleased to become aquainted with the fascinating Mlle Bernhardt. The "Drama Queen" of the late 1800's is playful, determined, vibrant, artistic, lonely, eccentric and a most talented actress. I enjoyed her antics.
Nov 22, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
I tried, but this book just wasn't worth reading. The author's writing style feels like I'm reading the diary of a 14 year old girl who lived in the early 1900s.

Too bad, because Sarah Bernhardt life seems like it might have been fun to read about.
Feb 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book, on the life of the famous actress, was quite an enjoyable read. The author carefully incorporated the stories and facts of Sarah's life, along with excerpts of her contemporaries views on her, and photos.
Pam Shelton-anderson
Dec 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I read this book after hearing the author interviewed on NPR and it was well worth it. He used extensively researched material, including her memoirs and letters to bring clarity to the murkiness of many aspects of her life. He built a convincing portrait of this complex and talented woman.
Courtney Dachelle
I didn't know much about Sarah Bernhardt before starting this book. It was interesting, but in places it seems like the author assumed the reader had more familiarity with the leading lights of nineteenth century France and the plays Sarah Bernhardt performed than I did.
Mar 07, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
it does what it says on the tin but rather dull and pedestrian and the pages in my copy have that american characteristic of the edges seeming to have been cut with a blunt penknife rather than smoothly cut .
I expected a biography of such an mega drama queen as Bernhardt to be more moving .
Feb 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sarah Bernhardt was a fascinating character! I loved reading about her and how she defied 19th century conventions. She was truly a woman before her time.
Nov 09, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I enjoyed this book as I have always wanted to know more about her, but something about the writing style annoyed me for some reason.
Mar 12, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A bit scattered but the subject interesting enough to make it worthwhile to me.
A more modern and frank biography of the great actress but with many of the same notable quotes as in the Skinner version.
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Robert Gottlieb has been the editor in chief of Alfred A. Knopf and The New Yorker. He is the author of Sarah: The Life of Sarah Bernhard, George Balanchine: The Ballet Maker, Lives and Letters (FSG, 2011), and Great Expectations and is the dance critic for The New York Observer.
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