Review of ‘Lead Sister: The Story of Karen Carpenter’ by Lucy O’Brien

Karen Carpenter (1950 – 83) was one of the most brilliant singers. Before the singing, she was a skilful and dedicated drummer. She and her brother Richard became superstars in the 1970s. Tragically, Karen lost her battle with anorexia and died aged 32. This book follows her life and career, using a variety of sources to portray her as a musical pioneer, a wonderful character and yet under a lot of pressure from her family and colleagues. Richard does not get a sympathetic portrayal, nor do her parents. Ultimately, her diet was the only thing Karen felt she could control. There are some very sad elements of this story, of course, but the book is a good read and uses quotes from people who knew Karen, plus psychological insights, to give us a new appreciation of Karen’s life. I guarantee you will have Carpenters songs going around your head while reading this. It does not delve very deeply into the song lyrics or how the music was produced; the focus is on Karen’s personality. You don’t have to know all of the Carpenters’ work to enjoy this book; I admit that I only know the greatest hits, although after reading this, I’ll certainly be checking out some of the songs I haven’t heard before.

Lead Sister by Lucy O'Brien showing Karen Carpenter playing drums.

Published in 2023 by Nine Eight Books.

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