LAURA LAMONT'S LIFE IN PICTURES by Emma Straub

LAURA LAMONT'S LIFE IN PICTURES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A film star of Hollywood’s golden age goes mild, in Straub’s curiously bloodless debut.

Elsa Emerson, whose father owns and manages a Wisconsin summer stock playhouse, wasn’t always destined for stardom. Her older sister, Hildy, is the one with the glamour, presence and grace. But when Hildy hangs herself after being jilted by an actor, Elsa’s discovery of her sister’s body forever alters her worldview. Just how, is the novel’s task to reveal, and unfortunately it fails in that purpose. Elsa seems to drift into the various phases of her life. Having escaped Wisconsin by marrying fellow Hollywood-bound thespian Gordon, she gives birth to two daughters in quick succession and is consigned to housewifery while her husband achieves a modicum of success under contract to Gardner Brothers Studio. When Elsa meets Gardner mogul Irving Green, he sees her diva potential, renames her Laura Lamont and changes her Nordic blond looks to the persona of a sultry brunette. Gordon is quickly dispensed with, and she marries Irving, who provides security and an opulent house in Beverly Hills. By the time her son, Irving Junior, is born, Laura’s career again takes a back seat, this time to a more luxurious domesticity—now even her husband is touting her for matronly roles. Although Laura wins an Oscar early on, there is scant other evidence of her celebrity status since we see mostly her home life. Already a passive character, she becomes more so after Irving’s death. (He had a weak heart and was never robust.) She resorts to barbiturates to get her through her not-so-busy day. The tragedy of Irving’s death compounds the psychic wounds opened by Hildy’s suicide and more recently, her beloved father’s passing. Although Straub’s languid language convincingly conveys Laura/Elsa’s inability to cope, the reader at times wishes this screen star would go less gently into the good night of the aging female in Hollywood.

A life in pictures, mostly out of focus.

Pub Date: Sept. 4th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-59448-845-0
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Riverhead
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2012




Kirkus Interview
Emma Straub
author of MODERN LOVERS
May 30, 2016

In Emma Straub’s new novel Modern Lovers, friends and former college bandmates Elizabeth and Andrew and Zoe have watched one another marry, buy real estate, and start businesses and families, all while trying to hold on to the identities of their youth. But nothing ages them like having to suddenly pass the torch (of sexuality, independence, and the ineffable alchemy of cool) to their own offspring. Back in the band’s heyday, Elizabeth put on a snarl over her Midwestern smile, Andrew let his unwashed hair grow past his chin, and Zoe was the lesbian all the straight women wanted to sleep with. Now nearing fifty, they all live within shouting distance in the same neighborhood deep in gentrified Brooklyn, and the trappings of the adult world seem to have arrived with ease. But the summer that their children reach maturity (and start sleeping together), the fabric of the adult lives suddenly begins to unravel, and the secrets and revelations that are finally let loose—about themselves, and about the famous fourth band member who soared and fell without them—can never be reclaimed. “Straub’s characters are a quirky and interesting bunch, well aware of their own good fortune, and it’s a pleasure spending time with them in leafy Ditmas Park,” our reviewer writes in a starred review. View video >

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