I've been a fan of Susan Boyle's since her first appearance on Britain's Got Talent back in 2009. I wrote this post over at my poetry blog at that time.The YouTube video of her performance/audition: I Dreamed A Dream, has been seen by millions and millions of viewers from around the world.
There was a lot of interest in Susan Boyle (and that continues to this day) and her rapid rise to fame from a very modest and rather sad beginning has been a story that struck a chord with many, many people. When I saw that she had written a bio, I was really looking forward to reading her story, in her own words.
Well, I wish I could say that this book lived up to my expectations but it did not. After I read it, I was glad I hadn't purchased the book, but rather borrowed it from our local library. It was not a compelling read. I love biographies for the most part. I don't think there's anything more fascinating than true life stories. But in the case of The Woman I Was Born to Be, in spite of being one of Susan's fans, loving her voice and wishing her well, I found this to be a rather poorly written book (some reviewers speculate if Susan actually wrote it!) and several discoveries along the way that actually disappointed me in terms of my impressions of Susan Boyle as woman of character and determination.
Whinny...that's the word that comes to mind for the "tone" of much of this book.
Susan Boyle tells a story of a modest upbringing, some health/mental issues that have affected her since her birth and the repeated telling of being bullied as a child because of other children's cruelty and their perceptions that she was different. Sad reading and one that many people can relate to unfortunately. Her determination to make something of herself and her life is what I was really interested in and of course as the saying goes, the rest is history.
After coming in 2nd on Britain's Got Talent, she spent some time recovering from exhaustion and stress at a mental health facility. After that she got back to her music and went on to record the top-selling CD: I Dreamed A Dream that broke all kinds of records. Suddenly, the girl that had been the victim of bullies and rejection was a superstar! And in such a short period of time.
So why did I find this book: whinny and boring! Well here's what I'd say to Susan Boyle if I could:
"Susan, you made it! Stop whining! Stop bringing up the bullies from the past, stop living in the past. And start really enjoying and recognizing the huge opportunity you have been given, against all the odds.And Susan, you can't have it both ways. If you don't like the spotlight and dread the life of a "star" so much, move over and let someone else dream a dream and see it come true."
On page 278 of the book Susan writes in explaining her feelings about performing live: " a kind of dread overwhelms my whole personality,as if all the insecurities I've ever had in my life and all the unresolved problems that I've still go to deal with are swallowing me up. I don't know why this happens."
In New York for the launch of her first CD, Susan locked herself in her hotel room and had to be coaxed out by several of her staff to arrive at Rockefeller Center in time for her 8:30AM performance and CD launch that was being broadcast on TV as well. After opening the door with a pass key provided by hotel staff, her manager was able to calm her down and finally convince Susan not to let down her fans, many of whom had flown in from all parts of the U.S. to see her perform that morning.
The "dread" factor comes up, again and again in this book. It comes across not as nerves (which of course are natural) but an actual dread of being on stage and performing. For a person who had waited until she was in her 40's to see her "dream" become a bigger reality than she had ever expected, it's rather a letdown to know that she is not actually enjoying the experience as much as one might expect.
So many, many people never see their dreams come true, especially in an industry as competitive as the music one is. I think rather than whining about how difficult it is, Ms. Boyle should be considering the route her life could have taken. Living in a small town in Scotland, in a small house with her cat Pebbles, in relative obscurity with no dreams ever realised. I'm sure there are a LOT of people who would trade places with Susan Boyle right now and in a heartbeat!
This is not a book I'd recommend unless you are a long-time fan/follower of Susan's career and life. It's an eye-opener if you are a fan though and in my case, that wasn't in a particularly good way.
Overall rating for this book: Fair. 2 out of 5.