Knopf, $27.95, 304 pages
Drawing from the tragedy in her life, France’s “little sparrow” belted out of her small frame the songs that are synonymous with life on the streets of Paris. No Regrets: The Life of Edith Piaf by Carolyn Burke, follows the years of Edith’s life and the many friends, lovers, mentors and protégés that were a part of it.
Largely uncared for as a child, she took love where she could find it. Piaf gave her all in every performance, and found the love she’d been denied in her audience, saying: “I don’t belong to myself when I sing.” Her guttural renditions resonated with the down-trodden and her passion charmed the elite. Her hard life and frail health led to her untimely death at the age of forty-seven and sent her country and her adoring fans into mourning.
Discerning the truth amidst the legends surrounding such tragic figures can be difficult and many biographers tend to give in to sensationalism. Carolyn Burke is not one of them. Her thoughtful research leads to a very satisfying account of France’s treasured tragedienne. So pour a glass of vin rouge, put some Piaf on your Pandora and enjoy!
Reviewed by Alicea Swett