Judy Garland has been an important figure in Susie Boyt's life since she was three years old, comforting, inspiring, and at times disturbing her. In this unique book Boyt travels deep into the underworld of hero-worship, examining our understanding of rescue, consolation, love, grief, and fame through the prism of Judy. Her journey takes in a duetting breakfast with Mickey Rooney, a munchkin luncheon, a late-night spree at the Minnesota Judy Garland Museum, and a breathless, semi-sacred encounter with Liza Minnelli.
Layering key episodes from Garland's life with defining moments from her own, Boyt demands with insight and humor, what it means, exactly, to adore someone you don't know. Does hero worship have to be a pursuit that's low in status or can it be performed with pride and style? Are there similarities that lie at the heart of all fans? Chronicling her obsession, Boyt illuminates her own life and perfectly distills why Judy Garland is such a legend.
By turns clever, hilariously ironical and sweetly earnest, English novelist Boyt's paean to the legendary singer and actress elevates hero worship to the role of self-improvement. As a sensitive, conscientious, overweight youngster growing up in London, Boyt painter Lucian Freud's daughter, although her parents split up before she was born in 1969 learned early on through listening to Judy's thrilling, moving singing that "the person with the strongest feelings in life is to be the best." Boyt (Last Hope of Girls) moves through Judy's rich, complex career and increasingly unraveling personal saga while sounding important themes that resonated in Boyt's own life: being early stagestruck (Boyt reckons she attended "almost 2,000 dance classes" as a youth); feeling unwanted; needing to rescue others in crisis and to console; and dealing with the drama of drug addicts. Boyt has managed to interview many of the survivors in Judy's story, such as Liza Minnelli, Joe Luft and Mickey Rooney; she pilgrimaged to Judy's birthplace in Grand Rapids, Minn., and her burial site in Westchester, N.Y., and sifts obsessively through questionnaires she gave to fans to understand better Judy's personal connection with people. While lavish, Boyt's hagiography proves poetic and endearing.