THE MEMORY BOOK OF STARR FAITHFULL by Gloria Vanderbilt

THE MEMORY BOOK OF STARR FAITHFULL

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This ludicrous recreation of an early 20th century diary by poor-little-rich-girl Vanderbilt (Never Say Goodbye, 1989, etc.) proves definitively that being famous is in no way equivalent to being talented. Despite her fatuous name, Start Faithfull was an actual person whose mysterious death in 1931 led the police to discover her diary, which revealed that her cousin Andrew J. Peters, who had served as mayor of Boston, had sexually abused her beginning when she was 11 and he was 45. After the investigation, the journal disappeared. Vanderbilt begins in 1917 on Faithfull's 11th birthday, and the sugary tone that poisons all the entries is immediately apparent. Faithfull soon begins pretentiously calling her journal a ""Memory Book"" and addressing it directly as ""Mem."" Daily incidents are reported fastidiously, punctuated with plenty of phrases like ""Oh Mem, I can't wait!"" and other fey touches meant to lend little-girl innocence. Faithfull comes across as a simpering brat (""Lucy Edwina and I are the most important girls in school now that Cousin A. is mayor of Boston""), and her repetitiously similar upper-crust tales of Christmas and dancing school all run together. Even the abuse by Peters (whom Faithfull nicknames ""Fou"" because those are his initials in a secret code that she created) is meaningless fluff from this spoiled child's point of view. He plies her with a bottled substance (presumably ether) that Faithfull refers to as ""creamy dreamy"" because of the sensations it causes, and engages her in games of""make the corn grow."" Occasionally Vanderbilt appears to recall that this is meant to be a historical novel, so she has Faithfull pen a line like ""A very terrible thing has happened in Russia, Mem. The Bolsheviks executed Czar Nicholas II and all his family."" In 1924 Faithfull moves from Boston to New York City, where she starts hanging out with a bad crowd, then becomes obsessed with a man. Hers is a sad, perhaps even interesting story that deserved better treatment. Painfully shallow.

Pub Date: Oct. 24th, 1994
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Knopf