This is a thoroughly enjoyable read; a book one can sink into and enjoy. We join Elsa Emerson as she lives through the years 1929 – 1980. Brought up in a theatrical family, we witness as she transforms from little Elsa from the country, to Laura Lamont, Hollywood movie star. The heart of the story is Elsa’s attempt to reconcile both parts of herself, Elsa and Laura, and come to peace with the losses and loves of her childhood. All this takes place against a back drop of film sets, glamour, silk dresses, leading men, money, opulence and fame. The story attempts to also dig beneath the glitz to show the seedier side of life in pictures; characters develop drink and drug problems, actors fall in and out of favour with their all powerful bosses, sex is traded, lives are ruined.
Straub writes well, though she overdoes the references to the two sides of Elsa/Laura. It became a distraction to me to note how many times we were told this was an issue.
The trouble with a book spanning over fifty years is that huge chunks of time must be skipped over. Laura’s love affair with studio boss Irving Green is sweetly told, and her family relationships are interesting. She forms a friendship with kooky actress Ginger, and a close bond with Harriet, the nanny, but there’s no depth. Neither is there weight in her relationships with her mother, sister or children. The novel doesn’t stand up to scrutiny but sometimes it’s best to just enjoy, and so I did. It is a delicious read.