Saturday, January 30, 2016

Platinum Doll - Anne Girard

I love the roaring 20's, if there is a time period I wish I had been alive for it takes a very close second to the 50's, in fact if I could have been a teen in the 20's and an adult in the 50's I would have been all over it. Not only were the clothes phenomenal, but the lifestyle was different, the world was different, and the movies were magical in a way that has left a lasting impression on Hollywood and the world. I have grown up watching any movie from or about the 20's through 50's, the same goes for the books I read. I've read a lot of historical fiction and plenty of celebrity biographies. However, Platinum Doll is my first fictional retelling of a celebrity's life and it did not disappoint. Jean Harlow is recognizable to many, even the youth of today, for her blonde hair, baby doll face, and bright red lips. She was a blonde bombshell and a major sex symbol in the 30's, so when given the opportunity to read this book I leaped for it. Starting at age 16 through her start in acting, leading up to imprinting her hands at Grauman's Theatre, Platinum Doll is the dazzling tale of the young woman known as Jean Harlow.

Rating: 3.5 Stars
Published: January 2016
Genre: Adult, Historical Fiction, 20th Century Literature
Many thanks to Netgalley and Mira Publishing for providing an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Amazon Goodreads
At 16 Hearlean McGrew is a brand new wife to Chuck McGrew living in dazzling Hollywood. By luck, she captures the eye of men at the studio and is soon acting for a small fee using the name Jean Harlow. Her relationship, however, is one of constant turmoil and making up. Chuck wants his wife at home, but his unwillingness to face his emotions leads to drinking and outbursts. As their relationship falls to pieces Jean's life in the spotlight picks up speed as she is cast in multiple talkie rolls and begins her press tours. Her mother's personal dream of acting has come true, especially with her daughter using her name in lights. At every turn, someone wants something from Jean, whether it be money, her partnership, or her acting abilities in vamp roles. With girls lining up to dye their hair that certain shade of platinum blonde, Jean Harlow must face her family, herself, and her passion for performance.

Jean Harlow's relationship with Chuck McGrew wasn't perfect, but the love is there and Anne Girard's coverage of this is excellent. While it isn't as true as Jean Harlow's real life, you know she drank too, it did bring to life who Jean really was at her young, impressionable age. I really enjoyed reading about her relationship, even though it was often strained and uneasy. Their relationship, while not incredibly public at the time, has been well documented and I felt like it was accurate. It also helped me to understand who Jean Harlow really was and why she was so good at just sitting down and doing what everyone wanted. I also loved her friend Rosalie and how they both were such unique individuals in the acting world. The interactions on set, especially when famous celebrities i recognized seemed pretty close to the truth, were really enjoyable to read. The historic facts, especially the movie facts as talkies first released, were very accurate and I appreciated the amount of research that had to have gone into that.

What starts as a promising tale of love, loss, and fame soon becomes repetitive and lacks the girlish charm of the first 50%. While Girard has a beautiful way with words, the general story of Jean Harlow's climb to celebrity status lacked emotion once her relationship falls apart. It felt like a highlight reel, which would make sense if the entire book read that way, but the first half of the novel seemed to have so much more to it. I'm not an expert on Jean Harlow's life, by any means, but I expected some personal growth from her and instead she felt more like a rug beneath her parent's feet. I wanted to know about the struggle with her mother, how she really felt about her mother and stepfather owning her life. I wanted to know about her marriage with Paul, how that really came to be, and her life in the movies.

Overall, Platinum Doll is an engaging story of the famous blonde pin-up girl, Jean Harlow. The novel brings dimension to her life and is great book for those that are fans of the 20's and historical fiction.

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