Book Review – June 2016 – Sallie Eden

florenceFlorence Foster Jenkins by Nicholas Martin (screenplay) and Jasper Rees (biography) (The Inspiring True Story of the World’s Worst Singer) – Published by Pan Books, 2016

You’ve seen (or heard of) the film, now read the book.

In two parts, the major part is a detailed and highly researched account of “Lady Florence’s” life from her childhood in Pennsylvania to her sad death, via her marriage(s) and her incredible role at the centre of musical life and society in New York.

The other part is the screenplay based on the story of her life. Both are moving and present an almost unbelievable picture, which proves you can indeed fool some of the people all of the time.

For those of you who haven’t heard the story, it’s a simple one – Florence Foster Jenkins loved to sing. The problem was that she couldn’t.

As a 15 year old (possibly), she entered into a disastrous marriage and the abandonment of her musical ambitions. Some time later, after inheriting money from her father, she was in a position to stage operas and tableaux for her society friends, eventually setting up her own club, The Verdi.

Supported and sheltered from the realities of life by her “husband”, actor St Clair Bayfield, she gave regular recitals, receiving praise from tame journalists.

I won’t give away the ending, although I suspect most people already know what happened, I will merely quote “Lady Florence” herself, ‘People may say that I couldn’t sing. But no one can say that I didn’t sing.’

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