Valley Of The Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
Valley Of The Dolls took the world by storm when it was first
published in 1966. Never had a book been so frank about sex, drugs
and show business. This reissue of the classic couldn't come at a
better time. The recent public mental breakdowns of Britney Spears
and Lindsay Lohen show fame is still a tricky bedfellow.
Central character Anne Wells escapes her hometown of Lawrenceville, New England, and moves to New York to pursue a life without assumptions, as she explains to her mother: "Oh Mama, I don't know what I like or what I am. That's why I want to go to New York."
After landing a job as a secretary to an entertainment lawyer, Anne becomes best friends with Neely and Jennifer, both struggling to make their names in the entertainment industry. As the three women reach the top of their careers they find the perfect way to deal with the downsides of their lifestyles - dolls - the pills that keep their worries at a distance, especially if taken in quick succession and washed down with bourbon.
Jacqueline Susann, an actress chasing fame before becoming an author, is said to have based the characters in this novel on real-life actresses in her circle. Neely O'Hara is rumoured to be based on Judy Garland, and Jennifer North on actress/pin-up girl Carole Landis (the star of One Million BC.)
Susann writes in the third person, which enables the reader to truly understand each character's foibles and flaws, and often, their origins. Neely is an egomaniac, a super-star who has been pandered to all her life and whose only loyalty is to herself. Meanwhile Jennifer's career as a starlet is based solely on her looks, and she seeks to halt the aging process by increasingly extreme means.
Anne Wells' downfall is the obsession she has with her on-again/off-again boyfriend Lyon Burke. Desperate not to live out an average life, Anne continues to pine after Lyon no matter how unreasonable his behaviour becomes. Although society's expectations of marriage and 2.5 kids are no longer as strong as they were back then, the story of women making excuses for their men is still relevant - just think of Rhianna, Victoria Beckam, or Tara Ramsey.
Valley of the Dolls is full of plastic surgery, drugs, infidelity, suicide, mental breakdowns, cover-ups and betrayals. Although it is set over 50 years ago, the problems faced by its main protagonists are the same as faced by the stars of Tinseltown today, and in this it manages to be both a period novel and a comment on contemporary Hollywood.
Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann