J. Randy Taraborrelli,
(Hachette, 2006)

Elizabeth Taylor has had many books written about her life. As a famous actress, her life has been in the public eye for most of her years on Earth. For folks who simply cannot read enough about her, J. Randy Taraborrelli has written another biography simply titled Elizabeth.

Before I get in to my opinions about this book, let me mention that I am not a Taylor fan. It isn't that I dislike her. I know she has been fantastic in many films including Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Taming of the Shrew. I have just never understood the need to idolize and follow every movie made by stars (or musicians or sports figures, for that matter). So, my limited knowledge of Elizabeth before listening to this audiobook was that she had been married many, many times, she used to be svelte before she plumped up later in life, she is friends with Michael Jackson and she raises money for AIDS-related causes. Oh! I can't forget about her line of perfume.

By the end of the first CD, I was a little confused. Elizabeth was raised in a privileged life. Yes, her mother pushed her from a very early age to become a movie star. Yes, one could easily argue that Elizabeth's childhood was "stolen" from her. But a lot of people have a much harder upbringing and don't reach adulthood as quite the witch she seems to have been. With all that she did have going for her, how did Elizabeth end up such a mean and selfish individual? The book points to her unreal life with the films she made. Elizabeth didn't know reality from a screenplay. Poppycock! The lady might have had a limited education, but she wasn't stupid! The book points to her domineering mother and alcoholic father. Instead of placing the blame on others, some people rise above their obstacles and take responsibility for their actions. Apparently, not Elizabeth.

Somewhere in the middle of the audiobook, I started getting lost with whom Elizabeth married when. What I did follow was that she did have such little regard for fellow humans that she broke up more than one marriage to marry the man she happened to want at that time. I got the impression she truly used a lot of people and that causing pain to others was a power trip. If I did not have any feelings towards Elizabeth prior to listening to this biography, I certainly had a terrible impression of her now! The excuses used for her insensitive behavior always sounded hollow. She constantly played the "victim" card, when, in fact, she was the true manipulator.

At some point in her early 50s, Elizabeth finally started to grow up. Instead of everything being about her, she actually began to focus on other individuals. Elizabeth took an active role in raising money to combat the AIDS epidemic and raise awareness about the disease. She still has her selfish moments, but getting to the point where she was no longer the beauty she once was, hitting bottom with the abuse of prescription drugs and alcohol, and the death of the second man I got the impression she truly loved (Richard Burton), she entered a new phase in her life. While she can look back on her youth and see a career that included some good and some not-so-good films, she has now come down to Earth a bit and joined the human race. My impression of Elizabeth was not quite so tarnished at the end of the book.

Elizabeth was read by Lynne Maclean, who has been seen on several television shows including Scrubs, Close to Home and Providence. I enjoyed her easy reading style. She does a decent Elizabeth Taylor impression and switched seamlessly between dialogue and narration. The author, Taraborrelli, has created quite a niche for himself in the biography section. He likes to focus on one name personalities -- Jackie, Joan and Ethel, to name a few. He introduces the audiobook version of Elizabeth and then closes it out with a little question/answer session at the end.

Elizabeth, the person, has lived a fascinating life. It is interesting to think that she feels she never had a childhood, yet it took her more than 50 years to grow up. Elizabeth, the book, is filled with details that the audiobook jacket claims avoid the tabloid versions of her life. As this is my first (and probably last) biography on Elizabeth Taylor, I can neither confirm nor refute that claim. I can, however, say I felt I was listening to a long book report. I do believe Maclean gave something to the book, making it much more accessible than if I had been reading a paper copy. As this book will only appeal to Elizabeth die-hards, be aware it isn't always flattering. If you prefer the fairytale, more perfected version of the actress, skip this tome. If you like knowing all the faults of the high and mighty, Elizabeth will suit your tastes.

by Wil Owen
17 March 2007

Buy it from Amazon.com.