Andrea Stoeckel's Reviews > The First Actress

The First Actress by C.W. Gortner
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really liked it
bookshelves: biography, historical-fiction, arc

"It does not matter how I am received. I have made my mark. No one can take that away from me. Regardless of what is said tonight, I will always be Sarah Bernhardt."

Sarah Henriette Bernhardt, born in 1853, died in 1923, had her early life in Brittany, her education in Paris at Catholic school where she was found to have a dramatic flair, sponsored to one of the oldest dramatics program in the world. She never knew her father and was only used by her mother, a demimondaine who had three girls and brought them up to become like her. However, Sarah had other ideas, and fought more than her family to get them.

Living through the Franco-Prussian war matured her. With that maturity she clawed her way up to become one of the first actresses to step beyond the rigid barriers of classic acting; breaking through he third wall. Poetry and plays were written for and about her. She was one of the first to brave the new world of film. She opened doors for women and men, directed a theater in Paris that earned her the Legion of Honor and became loved- and used- and hated all over the world.

My first knowledge of "The Divine One" was, when as a child my sister and I would play dress-up with sunglasses, all the costume jewelry we had, scarves and hats much too big. Then we'd link arms and prance around the yard. My father christened us "Lana Turner-burner and Sarah Heartburn". Little did he know what those childhood names could recall over 60 years later.

CW Gortner is an author I have followed and trusted since I first read his extant work on Coco Chanel, followed by his biography of Marlene Dietrich, my grandfather's favorite actress. However, he seems to struggle a bit through this book, akin to Bernhardt when forced into a mold she never fit. His love for biographical style shines as bright as ever. This is what lead me to a 4 star rating. I DO recommend this work, but not as highly as I have his other works. 4/5

[disclaimer: I received this early copy from NetGalley and voluntarily read and reviewed it.]
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Reading Progress

January 28, 2020 – Started Reading
January 28, 2020 – Shelved
January 30, 2020 –
20.0%
January 31, 2020 –
25.0%
February 10, 2020 –
36.0%
February 16, 2020 –
57.0%
February 17, 2020 – Finished Reading
February 18, 2020 – Shelved as: biography
February 18, 2020 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
February 18, 2020 – Shelved as: arc

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