I love Melanie Benjamin’s historical fiction, and I love old royalty Hollywood. I probably would have been very disappointed if this combo had let me down…but it didn’t.
THE PLOT: When Francis Marion meets actress Mary Pickford, she’s not quite sure what role she wants to play in the new business of motion pictures, only that Hollywood is where she’s meant to be. Francis, after two failed marriages, becomes fast friends with Mary, whose own marriage is a disaster. They succeed together as Mary becomes a bigger and bigger star, while Francis finds her niche as a successful screenwriter. But the friends’ priorities and needs change over time. Francis grows up while Mary struggles to remain “the girl with the curls” that her fans adore. When actor Douglas Fairbanks enters the scene, Mary’s obsessions with him and her own youthful identity eventually drive a wedge in the friendship.
MY TWO CENTS: To me, this book succeeds as historical fiction as it immediately had me looking up facts and also looking for the movies discussed. I absolutely love old Hollywood, it’s almost like our version of royalty. And while I knew of Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, I don’t think I knew of Frances Marion (travesty!)
I didn’t know how disastrous the Fairbanks’ marriage turned out, though. Really, nothing has changed in Hollywood since the very beginning! They risk everything, give up everything to be together, and then somehow let it all fall apart.
When Mary starts to age out of her famous roles, no one wants to see her change. It’s like the more she struggles to hold on to her youth, and Douglas, and the majesty of Pickfair, the more everything slips away.
And poor Francis really got the raw end of the stick, to have everything come together, to mature and find true love, only to have tragedy strike. It makes for a moving story, but such a shame that it was a TRUE story.
BOTTOM LINE: Great historical fiction, although it is a bit depressing to see someone who had everything pretty much work overtime to throw it all away.
TEACUP RATING: Four-and-a-half out of five teacups.
ON SALE DATE: The book is available now in hardcover, eformats, and audio.
Note: Review is based on an ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.