Elizabethby J. Randy Taraborrelli, Pan Macmillan, $24.95.

The obituary writers were probably right when they claimed Elizabeth Taylor was the last Hollywood icon, but she was also the first celebrity to live every moment of her life publicly.

Operations, romances, tragedies, break-ups, rehab, never before had a star shared everything with the world.

Yet Taraborrelli goes deeper with this well-researched, lively biography. Behind the beauty and glamour is a bold, earthy, exciting woman, described best by her close friend Roddy McDowell as an “elegant, rollicking Boadicea”.

Friends, acquaintances and staff reveal Elizabeth’s life away from the public eye, and even Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher describe their see-sawing relationships with the siren who turned their lives upside down.

The early years are a crazy ride, but it’s her happy yet painful later years that really fascinate.

She describes herself as a poor little woman “who’s bent sideways”, but typically carries on with humour and gusto, saying, “My X-rays are hysterical”.

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