Saturday, February 10, 2018

782 (2018 #5). The Girls in the Picture

by Melanie Benjamin

This historical fiction work is based on the real-life friendship between silent movies star Mary Pickford and screenwriter Frances Marion.  I'd heard of Pickford (and her actor husband Douglas Fairbanks), but Marion was new to me.

The book starts in 1969, near the end of both women's lives, but then flashes back to 1914 and moves forward from there. The development of the motion picture industry is a theme in the book, and that was quite interesting.  Unfortunately, the two otherwise-strong women, true to their era, let the men they love control their lives, and that was disappointing.  The first part of the book is by far the best, before Fairbanks and Fred Thomson (Marion's love) came into the book, although at least Thomson was a nice guy.

Chapters alternate from Frances telling her story in first person, to third-person accounts about Mary.  That might have been part of the problem for me with this book - I think the third person viewpoint weakens Mary's story.  Mary comes across as very immature and insecure, a lot like the little girls she played in so many movies.  Frances is more interesting but is insecure in different ways, and gives in to Mary too often, in my opinion.

It's obvious author Melanie Benjamin has done her research, and she has a great web page on the historical background of the book.  (I did find a reference to an electric coffee percolator on page 97 of the advance reader edition, in a chapter set in winter 1915, that I hope was corrected in the final edition.  While stove-top percolators existed, the electric one was not invented until 1952.)  Like all good historical fiction, it has inspired me to learn more about the people and some of the places in the book.  While I didn't like this as much as her Alice I Have Been or The Aviator's Wife, it's still well worth reading.

© Amanda Pape - 2018

[This advance reader edition was received from the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program and will be passed on to someone else to enjoy.]

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