I finally got around to reading Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger's account of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton's relationship Furious Love (HarperCollins). Written with Elizabeth's permission and containing many of Burton's love letters to Elizabeth for the first time (they are legion, poetic, epic) - this book is a seriously guilty pleasure. Most biographies of Elizabeth devote a chapter to each of her husbands and perhaps two to her most beloved Richard, so it is wonderful to read an entire books worth of sex, gossip, legendary fights, films (some brilliant, others campy), jewels and jet setting. The book gives background on Richard's impoverished and rather unusual earlier life and is perceptive about his insecurities and his demons. And of course, Elizabeth was not without her own demons. One wonders if their love would have developed differently had they met today, and also what would have happened to their relationship had Richard not passed away so young.
If you love the movies, if you love Elizabeth, if you love Richard and if you love love, then get your hands on this book, the perfect beach read.
And now for a few other books I've read of late and loved.
Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad (Corsair) so wowed me that I think I've recommended it to about five friends and even bought a copy for my mate Emma. Each chapter is like it's own contained short story, but all are linked by a group of characters, most of whom are related through music. It's experimental but the characters are authentic and their situations searingly honest in their evocation of human foibles and the vagaries of lust and love. I'm going back now to devour Egan's earlier books.
My friend Sassica introduced me to this accomplished debut When God Was a Rabbit (Headline) from English actress turned author Sarah Winman. It beautifully evokes an eccentric British childhood, first friendship and sibling love.
I was blown away by Hollinghurst's The Line of Beauty so I was beside myself to read The Stranger's Child (Picador). For me it didn't quite move me in the same way, but it sill kept me entertained and thoughtful. Spanning almost a whole century, the book is all about writing biography. Who do our stories belong to? And Hollinghurst writes so brilliantly about that English upper-class milieu.
I've read all of Ann Patchett's books and although I was initially sceptical about the whole 'New World girl goes to the Amazon' plot of State of Wonder (Bloomsbury) it really works here for me. A special writer and a special book (and she's currently in Australia too, for the Brisbane Writers' Festival).
And Skippy Dies (Penguin), set in an Irish boarding school, is one of the funniest books I've read in my life. I actually had to keep reading aloud passages to the husband it was so entertaining. But don't be deceived if you do decide to pick it up - and you should - because it is also a dark commentary on modern life, and a reminder of how tough it is to be a teenager.
Wow, it has been a while! I've been underwater with this book for months, and am slowly starting to get it together, but it hasn't been easy. 2013 has been...