Book review Burlesque or bust by Sapphira
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Book review: Burlesque or Bust

Burlesque or Bust by Sapphira

I received a review copy of Burlesque or Bust in exchange for an honest review.

As I stumbled upon Sapphira’s post in a group about her new book, Burlesque or Bust, about her personal journey with tackling mental health through burlesque, I was immediately intrigued.

Having been in the burlesque scene for a couple of years so far, (the first year didn’t really count), I am aware that a lot of artists in the glittery environment, have their struggles. Both physically, financially and mentally. There is no shame in that, as I see it. So I welcomed her book and offered to read and review it here on the blog.

Burlesque or Bust is published by Trigger Publishing and is available for purchase online. Trigger Publishing focuses on mental health and bringing forth personal stories, to inspire others to open up.


From the press release accompanying the book;

“In Burlesque or Bust, we are invited to join Sapphira, Priscilla’s alter ego, as she escapes [from the very strict religious Brethren Church and a psychiatric hospital] to the underground London cabaret circuit. Losing herself on the keys of her piano and in the song lyrics on her lips, she reinvents herself as a dazzling showgirl. Along the way she meets many powerful personal development teachers who turn her life around. With a new-found purpose, our heroine makes it her life’s mission to share the art form that gave her true release, and to share her sparkle and joy with the world.”


Reading Burlesque or Bust was new to me, within my reading experiences. I don’t usually read memoirs and the like, and this is a very personal telling of Sapphira’s life.

It doesn’t at all resemble a self-help or lifestyle book such as Ikigai or The Lifechanging magic of not giving a F**k. So, if you’re looking for a tangible guidebook in how to survive mental health issues through burlesque, this is not the book you’re looking for.

Book review Burlesque or bust by Sapphira

Burlesque and timing

Burlesque isn’t really mentioned until page 82 (almost halfway into the book), which considering the title, might disappoint the reader slightly. The book has a very personal and private point of view. Starting with how Sapphira grew up as Priscilla in a strict religious environment, where she had to suppress her creative spirit. We follow her journey through performing and trying to find ways to express herself. Until she ‘lands on’ performing burlesque and being a singer/songwriter.

Throughout the book, the chronological order of events was a bit confusing. Another edit would have been beneficial, to help guide the reader more in terms of Sapphira’s inner life versus life events. Instead it was more divided into themes. It all seems to come up as if ‘oh this fits here’, but for a reader who is unfamiliar with the author’s life and career, it makes the timeline a bit muddy.

Mental health and relatability

Sapphira mentions coming full circle throughout the book. Thus, it makes sense for the book to be narrated as circling around and coming back to various things. Maybe it would have been nice for the reader with a prologue, to fully encircle the experience and frame the setting of the book. I.e. including a pivotal moment where Priscilla/Sapphira encounters burlesque. That would further enable the reader to understand and follow her path. Going from a religious upbringing through mental health facilities to the performing arts. Maybe that’s something to consider for the 2. Edition of the book?

The language is very conversational, as if talking to a small group of friends. This simultaneously breaks the illusion of being with Sapphira and brings her closer, as we are invited into the anecdotes. Because of this, mixed with the anonymity of certain key people, a lot of the events are hyper-stereotyped. There may have been a need to cut out some nuances and depth in the scenes described. Maybe because the format of the book doesn’t allow for more pages. I could have wished for some things to have been left out entirely or just be shortened and made more precise. This could allow the burlesque and mental health journey to take up more space.

The hyper-stereotyped situations unfortunately contribute to a distance where it can be hard to relate to the author. In this case, this is most likely enhanced by my own personal experiences of both life, mental health and burlesque, not being very similar to those of Sapphira.

6 books on burlesque

If you’re getting curious about Burlesque, why not read up on it? I’ve collected a few books here, that will tell you more about the world of striptease, that Sapphira ventures into.

All in all, Burlesque or Bust?

When reading it as a mental health-oriented memoir of how Sapphira coped with coming to terms with herself, this was a nice and indeed very personal read. You get everything the blurp promises. It will not teach you how to cope yourself, or how burlesque is significantly different from other ventures, in coping with mental health. But it will give you a glimpse into how Sapphira made it work for her and how it helped her heal from past traumas.

Burlesque or Bust is about so much more than ‘just’ burlesque and mental health, and it’s more of a ‘becoming’ story. It’s about restrictive environments, finding and discovering yourself several times over, love, loss and having the urge to prove yourself.

Read it if…

If you like reading about other people’s experiences, honest, raw and incredibly personal, without being a big sob-story, this is just the book for you.

If you’re interested in burlesque and/or mental health, this could be inspirational reading, helping you in your own journey of finding a safe space in performing arts.

I think Burlesque or Bust has potential but it could use a bit of extra editor-polishing before becoming a massive bestseller. With that said it’s certainly worth a read if you’re curious on Sapphira’s life (which is anything but boring, I might add!).

I wish Sapphira the best of luck with her endeavors and this book, and I hope our paths will cross one day.

Have you had a chance to read Burlesque or Bust yet? Feel free to comment below if you have thoughts or questions regarding the book, I’d be happy to chat!

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