Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger
JR Books Ltd. 2010.
Hbk. 512 pages. £20.00.
|After seeing my first Burton/Taylor film,
'Who's Afraid of Virginia
Woolf', and being captivated by the two leads, this book jumped out at
me on a visit to the library.
'Furious Love' is effectively a dual biography, with the majority focusing on their years together. It follows them as they first get together on the set of 'Cleopatra', even though they were both married to different people, through the ups and downs of their relationship, the heavy drinking, the glamour, the fights and the films.
It's a very readable book, and it captures the passion between the two of them perfectly. This is aided by lots of diary entries and letters written to Elizabeth from Richard, and they shed more light then a whole library of conjecture. These documents show Burton to be both poetic and coarse, and awfully vulnerable.
However, the book is very flawed. For a start, everything you learn is repeated ad nauseum, leaving you utterly frustrated by the time you get to the fifteenth mention of how much Richard loved his brother Ifor, (as if family affection is bizarre), or a lengthy description of one of Elizabeth's many jewels. It definitely feels like the authors had a quota of pages to fill and couldn't quite finish it without repeating content that has already been written. Also, although I've only found this out through research (having little prior knowledge of the couple), there are many factual inaccuracies.
The help that the authors received from Taylor herself makes the book also feel a little off-balance - although the pages are equally filled with Burton and Taylor, the sections about the latter feel a little too reverential; the authors seem scared to bite the hand that feeds them.
Nonetheless, 'Furious Love', is compelling enough that there are rumours Martin Scorsese is planning an adaptation for the screen. Whether he'll be able to find actors who live up to such legends, and who are depicted so evocatively as in this book, it is yet to be seen.