Synopses & Reviews
The iconic French singer comes to life in this enthralling, definitive biography, which captures Edith Piafs immense charisma along with the time and place that gave rise to her unprecedented international career.
Raised by turns in a brothel, a circus caravan, and a working-class Paris neighborhood, Piaf began singing on the citys streets, where she was discovered by a Champs-Elysées cabaret owner. She became a star almost overnight, seducing Pariss elite and the people of its slums in equal measure with her powerful, passionate voice. No Regrets explores her rise to fame and notoriety, her tumultuous love affairs, and her struggles with drugs, alcohol, and illness, while also drawing on new sources to enhance our knowledge of little-known aspects of her life. Piaf was an unlikely student of poetry and philosophy, who aided Resistance efforts in World War II, wrote the lyrics for nearly one hundred songs (including “La Vie en rose”) and was a crucial mentor to younger singers (including Yves Montand and Charles Aznavour) who absorbed her love of chanson and her exacting approach to their métier.
Here is Piaf in her own world—Paris in the first half of the twentieth century—and in ours. Burke demonstrates how, with her courage, her incomparable art, and her universal appeal, “the little sparrow” endures as a symbol of France and a source of inspiration to entertainers worldwide.
"Following her biographies of photographer Lee Miller and poet Mina Loy, Burke offers this eloquent embrace of the famed French singer-songwriter, Edith Piaf. As a child, Piaf (1915 1963) grew up in a Normandy brothel run by her grandmother, then led a vagabond life, touring as a singer with her father's acrobatic performances. A Paris street singer in her teens, she gave birth in 1933 to a daughter who lived only two years. When she brought her 'velvety vibrato' and interpretations of la chanson rÃ©aliste, the tradition of gritty, slice-of-life song-stories about the downtrodden, into an elegant club in 1935, 'it was as if a guttersnipe had invaded the inner sanctum where sophisticates... sat drinking champagne,' yet the audience was 'electrified by her voice.' An overnight sensation on radio a few days later, Piaf followed with recordings, films, and concerts. Tracing her rise to international fame, Burke details her tragedies and her triumphs, her marriages and her music, and her conquest of America from Carnegie Hall to the Ed Sullivan Show. As Burke links the singer's lyrics and life in this evocative portrait, raw emotions emerge, etched with Piaf's 'poignant mix of vulnerability and defiance.' (Mar. 24)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Daffy Duck, plotting giddily to out-maneuver Bugs Bunny, takes a crowbar to the signs announcing 'Duck Season Open' in the establishing scene of Chuck Jones's great Looney Tunes cartoon Duck! Rabbit, Duck
! Our cue to the futility of the scheme, the detail that makes Daffy's cluelessness apparent, is the fact that, as he works, he casually hums Edith Piaf's Le Vie en Rose
. Already in 1953, just a few years after Piaf wrote the lyrics, the song inextricably associated with her was a cartoon joke to American ears. In the five decades to follow, Piaf and her music still have much the same status here. In fact, time has only hardened the image of Edith Piaf, the dark little sparrow talk-singing songs about the fragility of life, as a cliché of brittle French insouciance. To this day in this country, anyone with a fond appreciation for Piaf's work can express that taste only at risk of being taken for a strange duck." David Hajdu, The New Republic
(Read the entire New Republic review
The beloved French chanteuse comes to life in this enthralling definitive biography, which captures Edith Piaf’s charismatic appeal along with the time and place that gave rise to her remarkable international career.
Raised by turns in a brothel, a circus caravan, and a working-class Paris neighborhood, Piaf began singing on the city’s streets, where she was discovered by a Champs-Élysées cabaret owner. She became a star almost overnight, seducing Paris’s elite and the people of its slums in equal measure with her passionate, powerful voice. No Regrets explores her tumultuous love affairs and struggles with drugs, alcohol, and illness, while also bringing new dimensions to this iconic life based on previously unavailable sources. Piaf aided the Resistance effort in World War II, became a talented lyricist who wrote “La Vie en Rose” and other classics, and was an exacting mentor to younger singers and artists.
Here is Piaf in her world—Paris in the first half of the twentieth century—and in our own, as Burke shows how and why her legacy has endured into our time.
About the Author
Carolyn Burke is the author of Lee Miller: A Life
and Becoming Modern: The Life of Mina Loy.
She has taught at the University of California at Santa Cruz and Davis and at universities in France and in Australia, where she was born. She now lives in California and writes full-time.