Susan Boyle has written, or I should say, recited her life story. The problem is, her life before her appearance on “Britain’s Got Talent” isn’t all that interesting. Born as the surprise ninth child to parents whose oldest child was already twenty-three years old, Susan got off to a rough start in life. She was born with developmental difficulties which only made her family all the more protective of her. Even as she entered her forties and after her parents had died, her siblings, many of whom were old enough to be her parents themselves, shielded her from everyday reality. Susan led a lifetime of insecurity where she couldn’t even go to Edinburgh on her own as an adult, nor dress for the day without her mother telling her what she should and shouldn’t wear. Boyle addresses this, believing that her family’s over-protective nature, in treating her all her life as the baby of the family, did her more harm than good.
Boyle was teased and bullied at school, for which she blames her “hyperactivity” (the psychological diagnosis back then) as well as her personal appearance, which she is not afraid to address:
“If my story means anything, it is that people are very often too quick to judge a person by the way they look or by their quirks of behaviour. I may not have quite the same sense of humour as other people, but at least I do have a sense of humour, and I’ve needed it! As a society, we seem to have very tight restrictions on what is considered ‘normal.’ I am happy to admit that I have had some difficulties, but I also have many blessings: the gift of a voice that makes people happy; the certainty of my faith in an uncertain world.”
The Woman I Was Born to Be: My Story reads like a monologue, and an annoying one at that, as Boyle uses the adjective “wee” excessively, sometimes three times per page after page. A writer would not be so repetitive, however an editor should have combed out these “wee”‘s and suggested Boyle use other words in their place. No doubt that in the creation of this memoir, Boyle was given a microphone and told to talk. The stories about her early life and growing up were not interesting, and I felt like telling her brothers and sisters off whenever they tried to thwart her independent decisions or actions. Unbelievably, it wasn’t until the “Britain’s Got Talent” finals in London of 2009 that Boyle revealed that this was the first trip she made entirely on her own, as none of her family members accompanied her from Scotland even though they all refused to let her make the trip by herself.
Boyle is a devout Catholic and takes great comfort in the Virgin Mary, whom she addresses throughout the book as “Our Lady”. Her faith has kept her grounded all her life, as she coped with hardships at school and given her strength following the death of her parents and her closest sister. The Woman I Was Born to Be is intended for a British audience as the book is full of briticisms and while twenty-five years of watching “Coronation Street” has helped me understand northern British phrases, the Scots idioms may go over some people’s heads.
I am a fan of Susan Boyle and own her two albums. Thus I wanted to read her story and find out how she was coping with fame. Boyle was hospitalized briefly after “Britain’s Got Talent” in order to recover from a nervous breakdown, which made the most interesting reading. Since only eighteen months passed between her initial appearance on “Britain’s Got Talent” singing “I Dreamed a Dream” and the publication of The Woman I Was Born to Be, aside from her hospitalization, she hasn’t had a lot of interesting things to write about. Her tales of travelling to Japan, meeting fans and recording her first album seemed more to be book-filler than anything worth reading about. Her discussion of each song off her debut album seemed overkill.
Since I work in a library I can safely assess the future of a memoir like this: it will be all the rage for the first four months and then multiple copies will sit on the shelves, taking up space. I am glad to have had the opportunity to read about Boyle’s rise to fame, but her journey there was neither interesting nor inspiring.