Book cover of Sarah Bernhardt: The Divine and Dazzling Life of the World's First Superstar

Catherine Reef ’83 English

Clarion Books: 2020


This fast-paced biography of “The Divine Sarah” Bernhardt, written for young readers, opens in 1866 Paris with the young actress looking for work at the famed Odéon. The prologue places her on the brink of international stardom, charming the theater manager and landing a job.

Bernhardt becomes the greatest tragedienne of her time, known the world over for her exploits both on stage and off. Catherine Reef, who specializes in condensed biographies for middle- and high-schoolers, moves quickly through the extraordinary life of arguably the first modern global celebrity with short, approachable chapters.

Bernhardt—in addition to being unconventional, glamorous, and provocative—was a fabulous fabulist, famous for embellishing or altogether altering her stories. Reef takes care to objectively sort myth and misinformation from the diva’s narrative, deftly showing how Bernhardt grew from a strong-willed, quick-tempered child with a distinctive voice, petite frame, and frizzy hair to a living legend who flaunted her independence and larger-than-life personality.