No Regrets: The Life of Edith Piaf

Carolyn Burke

My daughter, Sionann, used to live in the Belleville district of Paris, the neighborhood that produced Edith Piaf, one of the most enduring icons in all of French history. More than a half-century after her death, Piaf remains the vital embodiment of the way the French like to think of themselves—tough, resilient, romantic, and tender at the core. Belleville is still a working-class neighborhood, and there are currently lots of North African immigrants living there, but it’s not quite as rough as it was when Piaf was growing up in those environs, the daughter of a prostitute. For younger readers who may not have heard of her, or heard her amazing way of delivering a song, listen to “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” and try not to be moved. That song, as Piaf sings it, has emotional power even if you don’t understand a word of the language. There have been earlier accounts of Piaf’s life, in books and on film, but Carolyn Burke’s is as readable as a novel, bringing to life the singer and her times. I loved it. Read it. You won’t regret it.