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Friday, 11 May, 2001, 20:24 GMT 21:24 UK
Madonna's life makes riveting reading
Madonna: Still going stronger than ever
By BBC News Online's Helen Bushby

Although the life and loves of Madonna have already been slavishly documented by the press, a book promising to be an "intimate biography" is really too much to resist.

It appears to leave no stone unturned, having taken 10 years to put together, and lists hundreds of sources used by the author, J Randy Taraborrelli.

He gets stuck in straight away in the section about Madonna's early years with her family in Michigan, with her brother describing her as "spoilt, bossy but good-hearted".

Madonna knew from an early age she would be a star
Born into a large, strict, Catholic family of six children in 1958, Madonna's life was blighted aged five when her adored mother died of breast cancer.

This had a huge impact on the young girl, who, according to the author, was left with a determination never to feel "abandoned" again.

Taraborrelli goes into minute detail, from her A-grades in school and scholarship to the University of Michigan, through to her tempestuous relationship with her father.

This is when the book really starts to get interesting, as from here onwards it reveals how Madonna started to climb her way to the top.

Sean Penn
Her tempestuous marrige to Sean Penn ended in divorce
After deciding she wanted to be a dancer, she left college early and moved to New York.

By the time she was 21, Madonna realised it could take years to make it big in the world of dance, so she switched her attentions to singing and music.

The book again launches into huge amounts of detail on the people Madonna mixed with, and how she ruthlessly used some of them to further her career.

But it worked.

Taraborrelli is in his element documenting her phenomenal success musically, and her ability to stay ahead of the game.

He also bombards you with masses of information on how her music developed, from hits such as Like a Virgin to the altogether more sophisticated Music.

Madonna and Guy Ritchie
The press were desperate for a glimpse of her wedding to Guy Ritchie
And it does not stop there. Her tempestuous relationship with actor Sean Penn is documented, as is the birth of her daughter Lourdes, her son Rocco and, of course, her marriage to director Guy Ritchie.

Although he allows the book to become schmaltzy in places, such as his description of her wedding to Ritchie, he never becomes sycophantic.

The book is a fascinating read, whether you are a fan of the star, or just want to know how she managed to achieve such enormous success.

But it does make you wonder who Madonna's friends really are - many of them appear to have kissed and told about some of her most intimate moments.

Still, perhaps that is the price of fame.

Madonna: An Intimate Biography by J Randy Taraborrelli is published by Sidgwick & Jackson.

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