paris street scene

No Regrets:
The Life of Edith Piaf

Carolyn Burke

No Regrets: The Life of Edith Piaf by Carolyn Burke

By Karen McCoy, Fort Lewis College Library (Durango, Colorado)
December 2010

In her newest biography, Burke (Lee Miller: A Life) focuses on the internationally renowned French vocalist and lyricist best known for the song "La Vie en Rose." Piaf is commonly associated with la chanson réaliste, realistic songs that speak to the underprivileged. Most data on Piaf are paradoxical, focused on her self-destructive qualities and relationships with men. Burke goes beyond this depiction by providing a more linear and objective narrative while debunking many myths, including some Piaf conjured herself. Burke does not idealize her subject or overlook Piaf's flaws. Her main focus is highlighting aspects of the artist that are rarely mentioned, such as Piaf's aiding Jews during World War II. The author is at her most engaging when she reproduces the lyrics of Piaf's songs in both French and English, demonstrating the singer's resounding impact around the world.

VERDICT: Burke's contextual detail and attention to research will appeal to scholars, and her masterful storytelling will engage readers. Highly recommended.