Published by: Riverhead
Published on: September 3, 2012
Page Count: 320
My Reading Format: ARC sent to me by the publisher for consideration
Available Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, and Audiobook
Personal Note: This novel served as bookends to my trip to BEA. I started it on the way to NYC and finished on the way home. It may not have worked out for me to meet Emma Straub while I was there, but I’ll always have such good reading memories of this trip.
Summary from the Publisher
In 1920, Elsa Emerson, the youngest and blondest of three sisters, is born in idyllic Door County, Wisconsin. Her family owns the Cherry County Playhouse, and more than anything, Elsa relishes appearing onstage, where she soaks up the approval of her father and the embrace of the audience. But when tragedy strikes her family, her acting becomes more than a child¹s game of pretend.
While still in her teens, Elsa marries and flees to Los Angeles. There she is discovered by Irving Green, one of the most powerful executives in Hollywood, who refashions her as a serious, exotic brunette and renames her Laura Lamont. Irving becomes Laura’s great love; she becomes an Academy Award-winning actress—and a genuine movie star. Laura experiences all the glamour and extravagance of the heady pinnacle of stardom in the studio-system era, but ultimately her story is a timeless one of a woman trying to balance career, family, and personal happiness, all while remaining true to herself.
Ambitious and richly imagined, Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures is as intimate—and as bigger-than-life—as the great films of the golden age of Hollywood. Written with warmth and verve, it confirms Emma Straub’s reputation as one of the most exciting new talents in fiction.
I read Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures on a train, which was a near perfect setting. It made it that much easier to get swept away in the glamorous world of early Hollywood. I was intrigued from page one by Elsa’s childhood and her family. I especially loved the relationship she had with her father. While they both carried on with their lives after she left the farm to eventually become Laura, the distance pained them both. She loved being near him and taking part in his productions and he wanted her to have all the success she could achieve. As a daughter 700 miles apart from my parents, I could very much relate to that relationship. When she reached the pinnacle, I was so glad that he was there with her.
As much as Laura would have liked to have remained the darling of Hollywood, there is always someone new, younger, and more desirable. It takes but one misstep or ill chosen picture to be brushed aside. The politics and forces outside of her control frustrated and in some cases humiliated Laura. I loved this lonelier, less shiny side of her character just as much. I knew her story. I knew that there was more to her than an amazing performance. It wasn’t that I wanted to remain loyal to her. It never occurred to me to be fickle.
The only issue I had with this book was one of Laura’s children. There were some darker parts of this particular character that were brushed under the carpet as much as possible by the family. It made sense to me that the family hoped the issues would be grown out of or would disappear. While there was closer of sorts, that storyline felt unresolved because some of the darkest things in my mind were never addressed completely. If that wasn’t going to be addressed, I couldn’t understand why those more concerning aspects were included.
As the weather promises to grow cooler and eventually even dark and dreary, going to the movies seems a lot more appealing than being outside. I would suggest popping your own considerably cheaper popcorn, pouring a glass of your own considerably cheaper and better quality drink of choice, and curling up with a copy of Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures instead (on a train where possible). Emma Straub’s writing is like silk and her storytelling will keep you entertained and thinking so much longer than a standard movie.