Title: The Blonde
Author: Anna Godbersen
Publisher: Weinstein Books
Publication Date: May 13, 2014
Source: ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss for an honest review
Summary from Goodreads:
Marilyn Monroe is at the height of her fame, the object of the world’s desire. Attention is her drug, the very definition of who she is. Her own wants and needs have become fleeting at best, as if she sees herself only through others’ eyes. But there is one thing Marilyn still wishes for beyond all else—to meet her real father. That’s the part you already know, the legend—but here’s the part that’s never been told.
In Anna Godbersen’s imaginative novel, set at the height of the Cold War, a young, unknown Norma Jean meets a man in Los Angeles—a Soviet agent? A Russian spy?—who transforms her into Marilyn the star. And when she reaches the pinnacle of success, he comes back for his repayment. He shows her a photo of her estranged father and promises to reunite them in exchange for information: Find out something about presidential candidate John F. Kennedy that no one else knows. At first, Marilyn is bored by the prospect of, once again, using a man’s attraction to get what she needs. But when she meets the magnetic Jack Kennedy, she realizes that this isn’t going to be a simple game. What started with the earnest desire to meet her father has grave consequences for her, for the bright young Kennedy, and for the entire nation. The Blonde is a vivid tableau of American celebrity, sex, love, violence, power, and paranoia.
Uuuuuuuuuuuuugh, you guys. I wanted to love this book SO MUCH. I hardly ever request ARCs anymore, but I jumped on this one because I adored Anna Godbersen's Luxe and Bright Young Things series. Those novels are young adult historical fiction, whereas this is more of an adult, history-with-a-twist sort of fiction, but I thought for sure she would nail it. Plus, it's Marilyn Monroe! What a cool historical figure to reimagine, especially with so many mysterious elements in her life.
Alas, my excitement was unwarranted. I trudged through this book up to the 40% mark, and then I could give it no more.
I had two big issues with The Blonde. One: I was bored. Despite the amount of the book that I did read, I felt like very little was happening beyond what the above summary already clued me into. Marilyn is working for a secret agent, hoping to meet her father in trade for secrets about JFK. So she has lots of sexy meetings with the future president, and finds out...very little of interest. But she does have a LOT of sex, which I started to think was the only thing meant to keep my attention.
That led to the second issue: this book seems to quickly devolve into a voyeuristic look at the relationship between Marilyn and JFK. If you want to get your jollies by having a front-row seat for their every (hypothetical) sexual encounter, then this book is for you. I'm not sure that there's enough plot to draw you in beyond that. And Marilyn, despite her larger-than-life persona in her heyday, comes across the page as disappointingly flat and monotonous as a result.
I know there's still 60% of this book that I never experienced, but if a book is billed as "part thriller" and I've not yet been thrilled 40% in, I think I'm done. Sorry Anna Godbersen, I will be in for your next YA historical fiction venture, but this new angle did not work for me.
What was the last book you had high hopes for, but ended up disappointed?