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on 19 August 2017
Excellent biography told with passion and empathy.
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on 1 May 2017
excelent book
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on 31 August 2013
I first read this in Hardback about 10yrs ago. I've now read it again on Kindle. It is a difficult book to evaluate. On the one hand there is the substance of the book, what it's trying to do. This book is a psychological biography. It is not a book rich (no pun intended!) in details of dates and events. To the extent that it is chronological it is broadly so. This broad chronological framework provides a backdrop against which the author's real purpose, is developed - Bragg wants to understand who Richard Burton was, what manner of person he was and he wants to explain him, not critique him. It reminds me strongly of "The Executioner's Song" by Norman Mailer (his bio of the multiple murderer Gary Gilmore) and also his bio of Marilyn Monroe "Marilyn" . Some people have dismissed this as psychobabble. I strongly disagree. This is intelligent, deeply thoughtful and erudite. Its endlessly interesting and absorbing. The author is clearly fascinated by his subject and his desire to understand but not critique him leaves him open to the criticism that he is, in fact, mesmerised by Burton, that he puts him on a pedestal then just marvels at him. He doesn't, he does see Burton's flaws and he paints him warts and all. What he doesn't do is sit in judgement on him because of them. They are not highlighted they are presented as a part of the make-up of a complex, flawed man who lived his life his way.

On the other hand there is Bragg's prose style. It is convoluted in the extreme. It seems that every sentence contains a sub-clause and every sub-clause has another sub-clause. It is written as though he was thinking out loud, as though he was talking to someone and developing what he wanted to say as he was saying it.The result makes it difficult to read, difficult to follow. So much so that at times I had the urge to give it up. I never did, I found that the only way to read it, for me at least, was to read it to myself as though I were reading it out loud. The prose style is reminiscent of Mailer but it lacks his wonderful ability to paint pictures with words.

Nevertheless I give this book 5 stars because I think it is a brilliant study of Richard Burton, the definitive study. It is deeply rich (pun intended) and endlessly thought provoking....if you like this kind of biography.
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on 17 August 2010
A detailed and in depth look at the early part of Burton's life. The book focuses on the 50s & 60s when Burton's star was in the ascendency and in the middle section takes a lot from his own diaries ('notebooks') which give a fascinating insight into the private and public life of this amazing character. Bragg has done a great job editing and appending the autobiographical stuff and does so in an insightful and sensitive way.

I would thoroughly recommend this for anyone interested in Burton himself, or more widely in the theatre and film world of the post-war era.
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on 24 January 2009
If you ask me Richard Burton is one of the finest actors ever to grace stage or screen but he seems to have been largely forgotten about as an actor and best remebered for his private life....
Indeed what made him a must see on the screen was in part due to the off screen image but how much of that was really him..Here in this book we find out.....

Melvin Bragg wrote this only a few years after Burton sadly passed away in 1984 so memories were still fresh and rose tinted views really hadn't come into effect to much....
The book offers us the early life ,the first footsteps onto the stage,the film career,Hollywood,Liz,life after liz and sadly the aftermath of his death...
Every aspect of his life is represented well by Bragg,,i must say myself i really enjoyed the 1950's..Here you can get a taste for the theartre life back then and the fire which Burton had in him to be the best.
The main focus of the book though is the acess Bragg had to Burtons's diaries...What a rare insight we have into the world only a few of us will ever hget to live...It is wonderful,sad,funny and touching to read.

I bought this book 4 years ago and i always go back and read it once a year...I can't recommend the book enough and would love it to come out again ..perhaps with a new chapter on how Burton is remembered today... A reaprasing of his work is long overdue...
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on 23 November 2001
This book is one of the best biographies i have read. The only real let down is the style of the author. Mr Bragg tends to tell the reader everything that is going to happen before it actually does. All very well giving us a taste od whats to come but there is a limit.
The true star of this work is Richard Burton himself and his writing within it. Apparently he always wanted to be an author and the journals he wrote were to form the basis of an autobiography. From his own modest work one gets the impression that he was an incrediably well educated man with a gift for languages. Also a fantastic reader polishing off many books in a very short space of time.
I was impressed with the actor i had seen on screen but knew nothing about. It left me wondering if Liz Taylor's life has ever been complete since.....
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on 2 October 2016
The ultimate Burton bio. I've read every book on Burton in the English language, this is the best by far.
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on 10 August 2017
MB- Dedicated bio, no shortcuts here.
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on 15 July 2012
I've read this book several times and always found Burton's own journals and notebooks more interesting than Bragg's rather plodding narrative with its cliché references to Burton as a Welsh chieftain storming down from the mountains to dazzle the English with his Celtic genius.

Burton was pretty good at being all things to all men. He combined the role of anti-establishment figure with that of a millionaire who was also a dining companion and house guest of aristocrats and high society types, the husband of the most glamorous movie star of her time, and the owner of a plane and plush homes.

His stage performances of classic plays were balanced out by money-spinning, pot-boiling action films and there was something vulgar about the way he and Elizabeth Taylor acted out their private lives on the front pages.

Despite this, his notebooks reveal an observant, intelligent and well-read man who seems to have become trapped in a web spun by Taylor. Life with her and her assorted children, dogs and hangers-on must have been hellish.

He writes lots of effusive comments about her which I suspect were put there for her to read and which are difficult to take seriously.

It is a pity that these journals have not been published as a separate volume.
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on 8 August 2010
Still reading but nearly there. An excellent book and Mr Bragg has shown what an exceedingly good writer he is. It is a shame Mr Burton is no longer with us, I have certainly seen him in a new light - such a clever man in his own right and admired by many, shame the drink got in the way too often and he certainly adored Ms Taylor. I never new she suffered so much in her younger life too. I recommend this book to all.
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