#BookReview GRACELAND by BETHAN ROBERTS #20BooksOfSummer2022


What happens when your only son becomes The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll?

From the moment she first holds him, after his twin brother is stillborn, Gladys Presley loves her son Elvis ferociously. She will be his greatest influence, the love of his life. She will be the one by his side, when Elvis is a boy and his father is in the jailhouse; as the family move from place to place, skirting poverty in Tupelo, Mississippi; as Elvis’s obsession with music grows; as they move to Memphis and he begins his whirlwind rise to never-before-seen success…

And he will love her back, even as his heart is turned by the blues, clothes and girls. But while he makes it big in Hollywood, brings audiences across the land to their knees and achieves unimagined wealth and fame, there is another story – of drinking and diet pills, loneliness and loss. While the heat and music of the American South in the 40s and 50s play in the background, a heartbreaking portrait of a mother’s love and a son’s devotion takes centre stage. When Elvis reaches the height of his power, he buys his family the ultimate mansion on the hill, Graceland, where he hopes his mother will be happy. The reality, though, is very different, and Elvis finds that even kings must go on alone.

‘Graceland is an astonishing literary achievement. Bethan Roberts somehow manages to unlock the mystery to that beautiful sadness in the voice of Elvis. Utterly heartbreaking.’ Jake Arnott 



This is Book 2 of my 20 Books of Summer 2022

At the heart of this story is that of the love a mother has for her son, and in this case, that son just happens to be Elvis Presley. Having lost his twin at birth, his mother Gladys shared a special bond with Elvis and that continued throughout his life, and this book really captures their relationship brilliantly as it switches from his childhood, difficult family life, through to his success and all that brings with it.

While I loved the subject matter and seeing the bond between mother and son explored, I did feel a little detached at times from the characters and the storyline kept switching randomly so that made me lose a bit of connection and continuity.

What I loved was that she would do anything for her boy, and all he wanted to do was make her proud. That conflict of having nothing and then having everything felt weird, especially to Gladys, and it also explored the relationship between Elvis and his Dad which was very hit and miss. There were such contrasts in Elvis’ life that you can’t help but think that led to the tragedy that ended his story.