A scintillating portrait of the stage legend.
Reef brings to life for teen readers Bernhardt, a 19th-century icon and paragon of the French theater—and a single mother who went on to earn France’s highest recognition, the Legion of Honor. Industrious, multitalented, and wildly eccentric, this self-made artist had an exceptional gift for creating multiple personae. The author convincingly argues Bernhardt was indeed the world’s first superstar, wooing audiences of thousands on multiple continents with her ability to command the stage and capturing the devotion of fans with her indefatigable spirit and take-no-prisoners attitude. A biographer’s dream, Bernhardt the actor, patriot, world traveler, mother, sculptor, motion-picture star, and author packed countless professional and personal feats into her 78 years. Henry James also noted she had “in a supreme degree what the French call the génie de la réclame—the advertising genius,” pulling stunts such as having herself photographed sleeping in her coffin (to remind herself of “the mystery of death”) and acquiring scores of exotic pets, among them a lion cub, tortoises, chameleons, and—when on tour in New Orleans—an alligator named Ali-Gaga. Thoroughly researched and enhanced by illuminating illustrations, Reef’s account pulls out all the stops in showing both Bernhardt’s struggles and triumphs as the daughter of a Jewish courtesan who attained dizzying heights of success.
A captivating biography possessing as much verve as its inimitable subject.(author’s note, endnotes, bibliography, timeline, picture credits, index) (Biography. 12-18)