The Girls in the Picture
Author: Melanie Benjamin
Published: January 16, 2018 Delacourt Press, Kindle Edition
Length: 448 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction, fiction based on real people
Source: #GoodReadsGiveAway (Yes, I won it in a giveaway!)
My rating: 4 Stars
It is 1914, and twenty-five-year-old Frances Marion has left her (second) husband and her Northern California home for the lure of Los Angeles, where she is determined to live independently as an artist. But the word on everyone’s lips these days is “flickers”—the silent moving pictures enthralling theatergoers. Turn any corner in this burgeoning town and you’ll find made-up actors running around, as a movie camera captures it all.
In this fledgling industry, Frances finds her true calling: writing stories for this wondrous new medium. She also makes the acquaintance of actress Mary Pickford, whose signature golden curls and lively spirit have given her the title of America’s Sweetheart. The two ambitious young women hit it off instantly, their kinship fomented by their mutual fever to create, to move audiences to a frenzy, to start a revolution.
But their ambitions are challenged both by the men around them and the limitations imposed on their gender—and their astronomical success could come at a price. As Mary, the world’s highest paid and most beloved actress, struggles to live her life under the spotlight, she also wonders if it is possible to find love, even with the dashing actor Douglas Fairbanks. Frances, too, longs to share her life with someone. As in any good Hollywood story, dramas will play out, personalities will clash, and even the deepest friendships might be shattered.
Well, this book came out at interesting time. Female friendships and the complications of them is a part of book conversations due to the success of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels. And I’m sure completely by accident, the rise of the #MeToo movement after revelations of sexual assault and harassment in Hollywood. It makes me think. And one of the things I think about is the use of Girl in so many book titles lately. I hope this trend dies soon. It’s so common that I avoid books titled like this. Then why did you read this one, you may ask? Well, In this case, I didn’t buy the book I won it in a #GoodreadsGiveaway. And I’m so happy to have won and read it.
What I liked:
The setting. As you know if you read my last QBR, I love stories set in Old Hollywood. I also enjoy fiction based on real people. And this book has both. And both of the main characters are real: the famous Mary Pickford and not-so-famous Francis Marion. The book explores these two women’s long and fraught friendship over the decades. How the friendship changes with Mary’s meteoric fame and Francis’s power. How their very different marriages affected their friendship, and how Hollywood becoming a proper business changes everything for them both.
What I didn’t:
Hmm. This is a bit tougher for me to figure out. but I think I would like more in depth exploration of the friendship of the two women. sometimes it feels a bit superficial. But the story moves so quickly through the decades that sometimes it seems to be moving too quickly? There isn’t enough time to reflect on why the things that happen to the friendship happen? A term I see in movie and tv shows would work here. Things need time to breathe a bit before moving to the next part of the story.
Would I recommend: Yes! If you are a fan of silent movie era Hollywood and want to delve into how two women navigated their way together through a business that is rough on women, then read this book.
**Edited to add: Let me know what you think in the comments. Have you read this book? What did you think of it? Would you add this to your TBR?