05 June 2012

Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures; Emma Straub


Laura Lamont's Life in PicturesLaura Lamont's Life in Pictures by Emma Straub
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The old days of the studio system will perplex many readers: how could anyone want to be a star badly enough to allow a stranger to change your name... you hair color... your marital status... your sexual orientation... your accent... your talent?  This book goes some of the way towards explaining that.

Laura was born Elsa, a Wisconsin girl of strong Norwegian stock.  Her father runs a summer stock theatre, and she and her sisters Hildy and Josephine help out with the cooking, cleaning and other related chores.  One summer Hildy (the beautiful dreamer) meets Cliff.  It doesn't end well.  Eight years later, Elsa meets Gordon-from-Florida and sees in him a way to escape to Hollywood, where she can act on a bigger [sound]stage.  That marriage doesn't go well, but Elsa - now Laura Lamont - and her two daughters manage just fine (so fine, in fact, that Laura wins an Oscar, much to her father's delight).  Married to the behind-the-scenes boss at a studio, her life seems charmed until Irving dies.

I wish the book had spent more time with that phase of Laura's life: the studio life, the world created there (need a wedding dress? go to costumes.  need a lawyer?  they'll provide one).  Several of the characters and films are clearly veiled references to well-known actors and films of the past, and that's part of the fun.

Where the book goes wrong is spending so much time on Laura's post-Irving life.  That could have gone a little faster, with less time spent on the minutiae of her days, her lackluster attempts to revive her career, etc., and we really didn't need to hear from Gordon again.

ARC provided by publisher.

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