No other composer of Ravel's stature has been so badly done-by as far as biographies are concerned. His music is not taken seriously in the academy, probably because of its "accessibility" (let's face it, it's not as fun to analyse as Berg's or Webern's permutations of various tone rows they have used). There is also probably always going to be a great deal concerning Ravel about which we will simply never know. However, most books on him are usually either boring or badly written. Orenstein has a good rep, but in my opinion, the best is by Nicols (in the "Master Musicians" series) even though he was not a Ravel specialist.
Ivry's book is neither boring nor badly written. Nonetheless, the first and most striking faux pas that one notices upon opening it, is the complete absence or omission of end notes or foot notes. While some people may feel that this is a small point, I believe it is absolutely essential for anyone who wants to make a serious contribution to the documented history of anything. My favourite biographer, Claire Tomalin, frequently emulates fictional literature in her approach. The openings of her books on Samuel Pepys and Thomas Hardy paint very dramatic scenes from an important or poignant part of their lives. Nonetheless, she fills her books with references and citations so as to let us know that if we were to do the same research we would most likely come to the same conclusions. This is not only a more humble approach, but also less secretive and lets us know that we can trust her. If some author says to me that I should just simply trust him or her based on their status as a published author, then I am inclined not to trust them at all, or at least be mightily suspicious that they are hiding something. If you're so confident that what you say is as objective and as factual as possible, then prove it to me that you are offering your information in good faith.
Now, I am not saying that Ivry is lying or making it all up. And certainly, taking the approach that Ravel was a gay man and that this had great import to his life and work is certainly worth investigating and the author makes a good case. But I'm sorry, I am not just going to "take his word for it" because he is a published author. For me, this makes the difference between "Maurice Ravel: A Life" being a three star and a five star book. If this book is published again, it would increase its credibility to give some citations and make me want to believe the author some more.
There are other problems with his research. He does not make it abundantly clear that it is more likely than not that Ravel NEVER conducted anything in a recording studio. My source for this is an article from THE ECONOMIST (p. 76, 1993-08-07) in which The Economist actually cites a source which Ivry talks about in passing as well, namely, Arbie Orenstein. In addition, I personally interviewed L. Douglas Henderson (in THE MISSISSIPPI RAG, p. 14, October 1997, "Debunking Piano Roll Mythology") in which Mr. Henderson (who has been active in the field of player piano roll production for decades) states that it is most likely that almost nobody ever recorded player piano rolls - the piano roll companies would use the names of famous performers or composers to help sell the piano rolls. But these issues are not dealt with satisfactorily or at all in Ivry's book.
But it certainly is a "fun read" despite its, at times, "gossipy" tone. A great deal of the time I found it very enjoyable to read, in spite of its shortcomings. However, I would recommend this book to people who are just learning about Ravel's music, as an introduction. I cannot recommend it to anyone who has a serious interest in either the composer or of re-investigating history. Once citations and other issues are dealt with accordingly, I could then recommend this book whole-heartedly.