The Blonde by Anna Godbersen
Release Date - May 13, 2014Publisher Website - Weinstein Books
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages - 400 pages
My Rating - 4/5
**received in exchange for an honest review from the publisher**
Here is the Goodreads synopsis
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.Marilyn Monroe a spy? Intriguing right? I would bet that the word implausible probably crossed your mind. That was my initial reaction as well. The Blonde, however, mixes hard facts with the most thrilling fiction to create something that is not only entertaining, but read as true as any biography. A fun, scorching thriller that I predict will burn up the beach this summer.
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.
The level of detail, research, and plotting put into capturing that essence of Marilyn's world shines brightly throughout the novel. Anna Godbersen takes significant events, and concrete dates and makes you see them in a different light. It doesn't take make, a tweak here, a twist there, and I was ready to buy into Marilyn living a double life. A large part of if this novel works for you or not will be how quickly you buy into the notion of Marilyn as a spy. I felt it was presented logically, realistically and that the author made it fit together like a missing puzzle piece.
The essence of Marilyn and what we know about her breathes through these pages. Her carefully crafted persona, her desire to have her true voice heard, and, of course, the damaged, broken girl who was looking for something she never found. There was a nice balance between the strong, forceful Marilyn, and the destructive, obsessive, girl underneath. She was layered, and much more complex than I think people would expect. Marilyn's movie starlet persona was something she painstakingly built with a specific purpose. She often asked people if they wanted her to 'be Marilyn' for them. This lends itself all to easily to the fictional reality Anna is painting. Someone who is already hiding behind a mask, it's easy to imagine they'd have another one.
The love story of Marilyn and Jack felt dangerous, obsessive, and magnetic. Even though I knew nothing good could come out of it, I still hoped. Hoped they could save each other. Hope that Marilyn would get to finally have all she wanted. Having Marilyn fall in love with the charming president was not a stretch. I certainly will never look at the beathy, sensual rendition of Happy Birthday Marilyn sang to him the same way after this novel.
As everything unravels, and that fateful day of November 22 looms closer the tension increases. The novel speeds towards not only John F Kennedy's death, but Marilyn's as well. The mystery, and conspiracies that surround each of their deaths allowed for some twists and turns in the story that were generally surprising. The ending is much like Marilyn herself - haunting. It left me consumed with theories long after I finished the last page.
The novels biggest victory is that as it pulls you deeper under it's spell you begin to wonder. The question of 'what if' is instantly haunting and ever present as you fly through the pages. The ease in which fact and fiction are entwined and blend together allows the reader to bridge that gap easily, and ultimately, the story Anna Godbersen weaves felt entirely plausible.
The Blonde is a white hot twist on the story of Marilyn Monroe. A tantalizing thriller, a deliciously scandalous love story, and at it's heart a portrayal of a broken girl who left Hollywood used and discarded. After The Blonde you just may question how she got to that ending.