The book spans decades, from the 1920s to the 1980s, in the life of an actress we first meet as a young girl named Elsa Emerson. Her family funs the Cherry County Playhouse in a small town in Door County, Wisconsin. It’s a family affair, though Elsa is the most interested member of the family next to her beloved father. She catches the acting bug while very young and it ignites a passion for the profession that she will have forever.
Elsa marries a fellow actor while still a teenager and leaves her family behind (though not before tragedy strikes her young life). The couple set out for Hollywood with dreams of fame, especially for her new husband Gordon. Ironically, it is Elsa who is discovered by Irving Green, one of the most powerful film executives in Hollywood. He molds her from an innocent blonde into a striking brunette and renames her Laura Lamont.
Her marriage falls apart as she surpasses her husband in acting success, and she discovers that Irving Green is truly the love of her life. Readers will be engrossed in the story of her career, as well as her family life and struggles to balance being a wife and mother against being a highly successful careerwoman.
It is an accurate portrayal of the entertainment world, whether that of yesterday or today. The only research flaw I noticed is that author Straub refers to a funeral being held at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in the 1950s. Unfortunately, the cemetery was named Hollywood Memorial until decades later.
This is a minor detail, though, in an otherwise fast-moving and fun novel. It’s a look at the illusions of fame and its sometimes harsh realities. The author’s easy style of writing automatically draws readers in and you come to care for the characters very quickly.
Emma Straub is a writer and bookseller living in New York. She is fairly new to the book world but I am eager to read more from her. Click on the book image at this review’s beginning for a link to read more about Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures.