Wednesday 18 January 2017

Review: Revenge by Sharon Osbourne

Sharon Osbourne's debut novel is a deliciously bitchy tale of fame and backstabbing, writes Yvonne Hogan

Yvonne Hogan

Published 20/02/2010 | 05:00

Sharon Osbourne has written a novel. Aren't the bookshelves already groaning under the weight of fiction written by, or ghostwritten for celebrities, you might ask. Isn't the fact that LA Candy, by Lauren Conrad of MTV's The Hills fame, sits next to Joseph Conrad's Typhoon and Other Stories, that Martine McCutcheon is next to Carson McCullers and Kerry Katona next to Kafka on our fiction shelves not enough?

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Where will it end? Do we have to see Jedward snuggled between two bookends with Henry James before the madness stops?

Osbourne has form when it comes to shifting books. Sharon Osbourne Extreme: My Autobiography (2005) is the best-selling autobiography written by a woman since records began. The second volume, Survivor: My Story -- The Next Chapter (2007) was also a massive hit. So Revenge, her first foray into fiction, already has millions of potential customers in place.

They won't be disappointed. Revenge, as it happens, is quite the page turner. Those familiar with Mrs Osbourne would be forgiven for assuming that, given the title, a Tiffany box of human faeces might figure somewhere between the very glitzy, black and pink covers (it is her preferred gift to those who have affronted her or any member of her brood), but they would be wrong. There is no excrement in this book, be it literary or otherwise, and I actually found it so compelling that I devoured it in one sitting.

It tells the story of two sisters, Amber and Chelsea Stone, both determined to achieve "huge global fame". Chelsea, the wild, dark-haired one finds success early in life when she is cast in a gritty teen drama, while Amber, the smaller, quieter, thinner one, becomes a singing sensation before moving into acting.

It is a little bit Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, a smidgen of raunchy Mills & Boon. It is Catherine Cookson meets Jackie Collins.

When her TV show is cancelled, Chelsea descends into a sordid pit of drink, drugs and rock 'n' roll while squeaky clean Amber's star keeps rising. The story of this sibling rivalry, fuelled by a cold stage mother who plays favourites, moves from the UK to LA as the novel unfolds, getting more exciting by the paragraph.

What makes Revenge stand out from the madding crowd is Osbourne's vast experience and insider knowledge of the world of entertainment. It is knowledge hard-earned, as readers of her autobiographies will know. The characters in Revenge backstab and walk over family members in the name of show business.

Sharon was involved in the music business long before she met her husband, Ozzy Osbourne of Black Sabbath fame.

She was born Sharon Arden in 1952 in London into a tumultuous showbiz family. Her father, Don Arden, a Jew of Russian extraction who changed his name from Harry Levy to avoid anti-semitism, was the legendary Svengali manager of ELO, Gene Vincent and the Small Faces. He was also famous for turning down an opportunity to manage The Beatles.

Her mother, Hope Shaw, aka Paddy, was an Irish Catholic who ran a boarding house for artists. She was 10 years older than Arden, and a divorcee with two children when they met. The couple had two children, Sharon and her older brother David, born 18 months apart.

Young Sharon's childhood was unstable and, at times, violent. Her father was a wheeler and dealer whose dubious, violent and often illegal business practices earned him the moniker The Al Capone of Pop.

While just a teenager, Sharon went to work with Don. She branched out on her own in 1979 when Black Sabbath, who Arden was then managing, sacked Ozzy Osbourne and became his manager. Though Ozzy was married, the two became lovers embarking on one of the most manic love stories of our time.

Their relationship was marred by drink, drug use and violence. Ozzy beat Sharon and Sharon beat Ozzy. Ozzy cheated on Sharon. Sharon forgave him. But when they weren't at odds, they had a whale of a time. They loved each other unconditionally -- even after Ozzy tried to kill Sharon, she forgave him.

Her father did everything he could to split them up, motivated by anger that he had lost control of his daughter, not concern for her -- but it seemed that nothing could keep these two apart.

Sharon cut off contact with Arden and she and Ozzy married and had three children. They went about their business, fighting, loving, making music and money -- Sharon has a Midas touch when it comes to business -- and rearing their three children in relative privacy.

Enter MTV. The Osbournes featured in an episode of Cribs where celebrities allow the cameras into their homes. That episode quickly became the most requested ever and Sharon got in touch with MTV to see if they could do business. The Osbournes premiered in March 2002 and the whole world went Osbourne mad.

The world loved the crazy antics of the madcap family. For all the cursing, the fighting, the dogs, the cats, the beautiful house, the eccentric parents and the hormonal teenagers, what you had was a loving, loyal family.

Everyone saw that Ozzy was, underneath it all, a thoroughly nice gentleman and Mama Osbourne became a star.

There is something about Sharon that everyone can relate to. She has been too fat, too thin, a drinker, a teetotaller, the other woman, the cheated-upon wife, been pregnant, miscarried, the battered wife, the battering wife, and still, always, the brilliant business woman, the adoring wife and the loving mother.

She has overcome cancer, reconciled with her estranged father three years before he died of Alzheimer's in 2004 and helped her children and her husband through addictions.

She holds the best grudges -- her animosity towards fellow X-Factor judge Dannii Minogue was such that she quit the show in 2008 rather than continue working with her -- and she marches to the sound of her own drum.

Like Katie Price's novels, Revenge will appeal to people who don't normally read books, which is no bad thing, and is sure to make the publisher millions, some of which might go towards supporting the next Virginia Woolf.

Revenge is published on March 4.

Irish Independent

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