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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
My Judy Garland Life
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on 15 March 2014
This book is a strange amalgam of biography and autobiography in proportions roughly two to one. The rare alloy is a "tour de force" - an intensely personal eulogy to an individual whose charisma and talent preserved in sight and sound will long survive her short but eventful life.

The first chapters best encapsulate the obsessive nature of the devotion Judy Garland (née Frances Ethel Gumm) unwittingly unleashed in many of her fans, some born after her death in 1969 at the age of forty-seven. There is no doubt that Susie Boyt became enchanted very young. If you substitute in the phrase "What a friend I have in Jesus !" the words "Judy Garland" for "Jesus" you will have some notion of what it was like to catch the virus young ! Effectively it became nothing less than an intimate relationship, one to one !

However the author writes this book from the perspective of someone now mature, and if she was not born under the balencing sign of Libra she should have been because later chapters explore the areas of unhappiness this gifted star encountered and we are then displayed a totally different picture. Judy developped an addiction to alcohol and her perscribed medication, especially sleeping pills. With an inability to pace her life, because of or in spite of her five husbands, she somehow let the studios work her too hard, and her health broke down. It would seem the fans, (all but the bad-crazy ones), cannot bear to think of this and each secretly believes that had her life somehow touched his or hers a rescue of sorts would have been achieved and the story would be different.

This is really a powerful account of an obsession. Susie Boyt takes the subject of her obsessive interest and analyses the symbiosis between the image of the hero and the imagination of the hero-worshipper. But she really takes it a step further in as much as she is not content with a description of this cerebral process. She crosses the pond (probably frequently) and interviews Judy's daughters, Lorna Luft and Lisa Minelli. She sits next to Judy's much loved son Joe Luft during a collage of movie clips of her best-known work. She contacts Marc Chardonnay, an arch-bishop of Judy memorabilia, and visits with him her grave in the mausoleum at the Ferncliffe Cemetary, Hartsdale. She tracks down to a boutique hotel in London Judy's fifth husband, Mickey Rooney, and interviews him. Her passion drives her and she becomes quite indefatigable.

Susie Boyt's style of writing is all her own and it reads like an intimate account she would only share with a trusted friend. Moreover, she has something akin to vistavision and can write in full technicolor prose ! This combination of lucidity, devotion and honesty cannot be worth less than five stars.
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on 18 March 2017
Thank you
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on 17 November 2015
Just as described in the advert. Arrived on time too.
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on 30 September 2008
Susie Boyt's latest is a dazzling, spine-tingling, catch-your-breath-in-awe compilation. The word "unique" is bandied about far too easily , but Boyt's book truly is unique. Where else would you find a sonnet to the author's favourite petits fours rubbing shoulders with a treatise on hunger, food and eating; where else a list of dramatis personae ranging from the Wizard of Oz to Cordelia to Lucien Freud to Johns Berryman and Keats? Bonjela (for mouth ulcers) makes a surreal appearance, to be followed by deep (and deeply fascinating)observations on drug addiction, mourning, and the art of consolation. This book scales the heights and explores the depths, moving from the sublime to the crazy; from the blackest melancholy of personal bereavement to the rainbow-coloured elation of singing a duet with Mickey Rooney in a fashionable West-End restaurant. The writing itself is vivid, original and higly inventive, with phrases such as "vanilla chilblains" and "sugar prayers" making this particular writer stop to relish them in admiration.

I began the book in ignorance and innocence, knowing shamefully little about Judy Garland, and never having been a fan of anyone (except of God the Father in my devout Catholic childhood). Yet I was gripped, amazed and fascinated by the sheer emotion and adoration poured out on Judy by her countless fans, who see her as muse, mentor, goddess, role model, inspiration and even alter ego. Boyt explores the whole nature of hero-worship - its links with obsession, neediness and the wish to live at a higher level- yet the book moves far beyond its subject. Indeed, nothing seems beyond Boyt's scope as she turns her formidable intelligence on a range of issues from eating disorders, the nature of love, the perils of childhood, the rollercoaster ride of fame, the uses of fear, and the joys and travails of motherhood.

Early in the book, she summarizes what she calls her new beliefs, inspired by Judy Garland herself. These beliefs are so wise, subtle and profound that to have drawn them up at the end of a long, long life would be achievement indeed. To have done so before the age of 40 is little short of miraculous.
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on 9 December 2014
Book was not as interesting as the fly leaf suggested.
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on 26 September 2008
This is an intensely personal and exquisitely conceived narrative that analyses the impact of a legend and enduring icon on one person's life. Two parallel journeys are interwoven with humour, pathos, anecdote, whimsical speculation and extraordinary insight. Garland's personality and legacy strides like a colossus throughout; yet never overpowers the author's articulate and sensitive observations of her own life and experiences. This is a sincere and brave venture that assimilates with great skill biography and autobiography. It will strike a chord with anybody out there who still has a heart and isn't frightened to admit it. The book encapsulates that intense intimacy and personal bond that many Garland fans feel towards Judy; that 'profound kinship' that unites devotees across the world. It's an acutely sensitive book where Susie reflects on her own battles to understand and master her own day-to-day life; the emotional world of love, laughter and loss that we all inhabit, and Judy is a passive companion throughout this process. At one point Boyt observes: 'I wasn't there at the moments of [Judy's] greatest triumphs and her cruelest despair. But she has been at mine' and it is a sentiment fans of any star or performer will share. One chapter, entitled 'World's Greatest Entertainer' stands alone as one of, if not THE most eloquent analysis of Garland's talent that I have ever encountered. Susie has captured the impact of Judy: THE voice, THE personality, THE agony, ecstasy and rollercoaster extremities. The book is rich with anecdotes, eloquent and evocative childhood memories, amusing 'what if...' speculation, humour and tears; and Judy is the key point of reference in Susie's life - omnipresent but never really getting in the way of Susie's story. It is such a brave and exciting new direction in biography/memoir; beautifully illustrated with some superb and rare Garland photographs. Anybody out there who has ever idolised or respected a performer or role model of any shape or form will love this book. Garland fans will lap it up. Superb, and so cleverly and eloquently written.
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on 6 May 2009
This is an utterly wonderful book, part biography, part memoir, part novel, that sets out to examing all the different faces of love, loss and fame and find out what it really means to be human. Beautifully written, at times hilarious at other moments poignant or even heart-breaking, it is, deep down, a very high spirited book about grief. Its breadth is incredible, going from stage school antics, how to get someone into rehab, the history of psychoanalysis in the USA, the travails of being from a big dynasty, the dynamics of mourning, cake decorating, show tunes, the loneliness of the understudy...and of course Judy Garland in all her majesty!
A must not just for Judy fans, but for fans of fine writing and life.
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on 29 June 2013
I came to this book after reading the glowing reviews for it, not because I'm some kind of Judy Garland nut who thinks that anything about her is utterly fantastic. The bruising, sweet, yearning humour and intelligence of this book just blew me away. Boyt has somehow combined a critic's insight, a novelist's sensitivity and subtlety, a fan's passion and a historian's rigour to produce a book for anyone who has ever been a fan of anything - and, at the same time, it's a dissection of fandom and of the childhood yearning and sense of imperfect that leads us to project all our hopes and desires onto perfect strangers. A strong, moving, detailed, completely blissful read.
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on 13 May 2013
'Elizabeth Taylor has stolen Eddie Fisher from Debbie Reynolds....how these things affect us.' Sylvia Plath wrote in her diary, before Assia Wevill had 'stolen' Ted Hughes from her.

After a century of celebrity, we subconsciously measure our lives against those of the tragic and famous. Susie Boyt's My Judy Garland Life is an intelligent, at times hilarious, analysis of obsession.

You don't even have to be a Judy fan to enjoy this book. Everybody is obsessed with something, even if it's (only) Your Self.

Boyt writes with perception and clarity, and she knows her subject at least as well as the back of her hand.
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on 16 May 2010
Susie Boyt is a wonderful writer. Extremely sensitively observed book. I highly recommend this book and any of her others - you will not be disappointed!
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