This book is the tabloid version of an Elizabeth Taylor biography, reading like stiched-together daily exposes in such a newspaper. It displays in endless detail the sexual orientation of virtually everyone she ever spent time with, any arguments she ever had where someone else was present, and any unladylike things she may have said or done. Her movie work is discussed in terms of how it related to her marital relationships and financial problems. Occasionally, the book also criticizes her for having a healthy sexual appetite.
Normally, biographers either like the person they write about or want to create a more accurate account of the person. Mr. Amburn did not seem to fall into either of these categories. His objective seems to be to portray some of the other people in Ms. Taylor's life more sympathetically.
The book's main thesis is that Ms. Taylor has had loving relationships in her adult life with people who are gay or bisexual and unloving ones with everyone else. This connection is also made to Ms. Taylor's relationship with her father, despite the fact that she did not have a good relationship with him. But the book doesn't get beyond that into much of the motivation. Many men were attracted to Ms. Taylor like moths to the flame, and this attraction did nothing to bring out their better qualities. She seems to have lived in a world where her physical attractiveness made her a target for fans, men, and exploiters of all sorts. Little is made of the potential to see her as victim of peoples' perceptions of someone who is physically attractive. She also doesn't seem to get enough credit for generally being an open-minded person, which may explain her lack of sexual-orientation prejudice.
According to press reports and this book, Ms. Taylor has had more than her share of illness, injury, and physical and emotional pain. Yet she has led a generally productive artistic life, and has played an increasingly important role in bringing sympathy and support to the cause of overcoming AIDS. It would have been natural to have focused on these positive reflections of her underlying character, and the difficulties involved in overcoming ceaseless, searing pain addiction. No one is going to be perfect under such circumstances. Yet the book wallows in her use of drugs and drinking to soften the pain, in endless tales that add little to the biography.
Naturally, Ms. Taylor is famous in part for her marital difficulties. Those should have been in the book, but they became too much of the book to be rewarding to the reader.
As someone who was a working actress for most of her life, another aspect of the book you might expect would be extended dicussions of her work. You will find relatively little of that. It is as though the author thinks that her work is of virtually no importance. I certainly was moved by her performances in National Velvet, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Giant, and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? I liked her performances in many other movies. I would have liked to have read much more about her work in these roles where she was more successful.
The best part of this book is the beautiful color photograph of Ms. Taylor on the cover.
If you are wondering why I did not give the book a one star review, it is because the photographs are good and the writing style is perfectly adequate. The three star downgrade is for misfocus, exploitation, and a hidden agenda.
After you finish looking at Ms. Taylor's cover photograph, consider what you would like to know more about public figures. Then when you are thinking about reading a biography about that person, check to see if the biography focuses on the areas you care about before reading them. That will save you a lot of time.
Also, ask yourself how we should consider someone's life. To what extent should we consider good deeds? Bad deeds? Repentance? Motives? Physical appearance? Obstacles to progress? Ms. Taylor's life raises these issues rather nicely.
By the way, if you find a biography of Ms. Taylor that you like, please do write to me. I'd like to read it.