Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Blonde and Other May Reads

I finished eleven books in May:

Shadow Man by Alan Drew (ARC)
Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t by Steven Pressfield
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Productivity for Creative People by Mark McGuinness
Heartthrobs by Carol Dyhouse (ARC)
The Civil War Love Letter Quilt by Rosemary Youngs
The Map That Leads to You by J.P. Monninger (ARC)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (audiobook, reread)
The Map Across Time by C.S. Lakin
The Blonde by Anna Godbersen
Collapse by R.J. Infantino

Three of these books were advance reader copies (ARCs) that I received from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. If you want to see those, you can find them below:

Shadow Man:
The Map That Leads to You:

My favorite read this month was probably The Blonde by Anna Godbersen. This book is adult historical fiction about Marilyn Monroe. The book takes the moments of her life that were witnessed by the public and imagine a story that occurred behind the scenes.

The imagined story is that Marilyn was recruited by the Soviets as a spy of sorts, to get information on JFK. To convince Marilyn to work with them, her handler dangles the promise that Marilyn will finally get to meet the father she has never known.

I won’t lie. I have been fascinated by Marilyn Monroe since I was a teenager. It may have come from the ridiculous number of times I was asked if I was related to her. (My maiden name is Monroe). I don’t know how many times I had to remind people that Marilyn Monroe was a stage name, that her real name was Norma Jean Baker. It didn’t help my fascination that there was a connection (of unknown strength) between Marilyn and JFK. I have also been a bit obsessed with his story.

So I was a prime target for this imagined history. The main focus of the story was Marilyn’s intentional effort to get close to JFK, and the unintentional side effect of falling in love with him. This was where the story was strongest.

There were a couple of things that worked less well for me, though. Jackie Kennedy was portrayed as a cold and distant woman, a marriage of convenience. She was pushed aside and dismissed as insignificant to the plot. I would have preferred to see her more engaged in the story, or see her with a bit more depth and dimension.

I also had some trouble with the last part of the book. The ending felt a bit forced, as if  Anna knew she had to give the couple some closure. Given that both JFK and Marilyn die at a young age, this is incredibly tricky. I won’t tell you what Anna does to close the story, but it was probably the weakest part of the book, in my opinion.

What I loved most about this book was the idea of taking snippets of a story, the moments that everyone sees, and building a whole world of story behind it. This is what historical fiction always does, but this one started with moments that were so iconic, so part of the memory of our society (Marilyn’s version of Happy Birthday for JFK, for example), that it felt closer to me.

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