Gabriel’s writing is unfussy and direct ... It’s a mark of Gabriel’s skill that she has managed to wrestle this complex, sprawling, eventful life into a book that rarely flags and conveys its subject’s wider significance without tipping into hagiography. We come to understand Madonna the person as well as Madonna the concept.
The result is an alternately fascinating and lumpy account of a singular career ... This very large book is just a bit too much ... As tends to be the case with music bios, the first third of the book, when Gabriel deftly lays out the modest roots of Madonna’s global ascendancy, is the most compelling tranche ... There is a lot to like about and learn from Madonna: A Rebel Life; the depth of your 'Madge' worship will determine whether you will go the distance with it.
One of those books you measure in pounds, not pages: almost three, which would have been more if the publisher hadn’t decided to post the endnotes and bibliography online rather than printing them ... Clichés sneak into her prose. Madonna is burning the candle at both ends, igniting a firestorm and is a lightning rod for controversy. She has never taken the road most traveled, but does take a long hard look in the mirror ... Hits its marks but rarely soars.