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Divine Sarah: A Novel (P.S.) Paperback – Bargain Price, July 5, 2005

3.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

"Loosely based on real circumstance," Braver's poignant and inventive second novel (after Mr. Lincoln's Wars) follows a week in the life of internationally renowned stage actress Sarah Bernhardt. As the story opens, she is 61 and on what should be a glorious Farewell Tour of America, but her career is losing steam. There's word that her California stage performances have suddenly been relocated to Venice from Los Angeles, and to make matters worse, a conservative religious group has boycotted Bernhardt, dubbing her show "immoral and unfit for performing downtown." Never one to succumb to pressure, and always primed for scandal, the resilient Bernhardt goes fishing. Before a ravenous audience of 50 reporters, she catches a sea bass, cuts it open with her hotel key and mashes her face into the bloody viscera—all "with a tragicomic smile." Bernhardt's antics are closely monitored by publicity guru Abbot Kinney and loving gay manager Max "Molly" Klein, who keeps her focused, protected and working harder than ever. Bernhardt's sudden mood swings are imagined with sympathetic verve and a light comical touch, but nothing rivals her cocaine-inspired Hamlet recitation to an enraptured Thomas Edison. As the novel closes, Bernhardt is still playing Marguerite Gautier in La Dame aux Camélias, rapturously enjoying multiple curtain calls with a prosthetic leg at 76. Braver has produced a gracefully inspired story about the unavoidable effects of age on fame.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

She may have been the Divine Sarah to the rest of the world, but Sarah Bernhardt's world was anything but divine. Her legendary fame came at a price to her privacy, principles, and passions. Embroiled in a controversy perpetrated by the League of Decency, Bernhardt's American tour was banned in Los Angeles and relegated to the less prestigious venue of Venice Beach. Vince Baker, a crusty newspaper reporter, is assigned to cover the story, a task he finds incompatible with his journalistic ethics. Just as Bernhardt assuages her demons with opium, Baker hits the bars. Bored and tired of playing to audiences who don't appreciate them, both are ready to end their careers. Such parallels between two professionals who are considered, and who consider themselves, to be at the top of their craft reveal Braver's skill in bringing his characters to life. Lush and lyrical, Braver's prose often shocks with its abrupt cruelty, yet through subtle nuances and provocative details he evokes the ethereal last days of America's innocence. Patty Engelmann
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: P.S.
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (July 5, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060544082
  • ASIN: B000GG4FJA
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,330,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I found this book to be inspiring and interesting. I was struck by how contemporary many of the themes were: the boycotts against Bernhardt, the aging celebrity, etc. It all felt very fresh, as though it were speaking of today's times. I confess that I don't know that much about Sarah Bernhardt, but I beleive that the book is intended to be about more than her life and pridicaments. It seems to me that this beautifully written book is about the moments when people confront the images that they have of themselves, all in an effort to make sense of where they have been and where they are going.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For years I've been fascinated by the great French actress Sarah Bernhardt, so I was expecting to really enjoy this fictional depiction of her. Boy, was I in for a disappointment! I would expect the real "Divine Sarah" to be turning over in her tomb if this depiction could ever reach her. She certainly could sue Braver for slander and defamation of character, since he portrays her as demented, drug-addled, lazy and almost good-for-nothing. None of these qualities she possessed in actuality.

I also disliked Braver's stream-of-consciousness style, which often droned on in meaningless discourse in his attempt to give reason and motivation to his thin and poorly-conceived characters. The reader is faced with entire pages without paragraph breaks, as he describes scenes and setting in minute detail. Even the most patient reader will find his mind wandering and his eyelids becoming droopy.

This is a "hatchet job" on Bernhardt -- pure and simple -- and Braver shows no respect or insight into the woman who captivated audiences all over the world for over half a century.
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Format: Hardcover
DIVINE SARAH by Adam Braver
I'm going to start out by saying I was disappointed with this book. I had expected DIVINE SARAH by Adam Braver to be more than what it turned out to be - a novel that didn't even come close to what the blurb on the back said it would be. Although it was interesting to read about this legendary actress, Sarah Bernhardt, and it was even more interesting to have her in the setting of early 1900's Los Angeles, the book read as if it were slightly disjointed, as if the parts that were to come together never did.
The story takes place in a week's span of time, in Southern California 1906. While Sarah Bernhardt battles her demons and wishes she were retired, news reporter Vince Baker is upset about the quality of news writing and what he is expected to put out. Then we have Abbott Kinney, a successful land developer who became the founder of the city of Venice, California, who is a strong character in this book, and actually helps make the book worth reading.
But over all, the book fails to be what it should have been - it should have been a story about two people who are soul-searching, trying to figure out what their futures hold for them. I believe this was Adam Braver's vision for this novel, but it is not what I got from reading it.
He created characters that did not quite ring true on paper, and their stories should have been written so that they actually had a connection to each other, but I didn't see the connection. He might as well have been writing separate stories. I also found the character of Vince Baker weak and one-dimensional.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this book because I loved the historical novel Adam Braver wrote about Lincoln. I am sticking with this book but it is a slower read for me.
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