Monday 25 July 2016

Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann

Valley of the DollsDolls: red or black; capsules or tablets; washed down with vodka or swallowed straight-for Anne, Neely, and Jennifer, it doesn't matter, as long as the pill bottle is within easy reach. These three women become best friends when they are young and struggling in New York City and then climb to the top of the entertainment industry-only to find that there is no place left to go but down-into the Valley of the Dolls. 

Apart from getting a recommendation from Sophie, I didn't have any expectations about this story, and yet it still surprised me! Set over years, we follow three young women grow up in the glamorous world of New York, where of course nothing is as shiny as it appears to be.

Anne started of very innocent in the big city, working as a secretary in a talent agency and falling head over heels in love with womaniser Lyon. It isn't until years later when she started popping pills, when her life isn't going the way she wanted. I liked Anne, she was a little naive and could appear quite cold but really she just wanted love. And even after seeing what the entertainment industry did to people, she stayed a good person, standing by Neely even as she flipped out and slept around.

Speaking of, Neely was another that started the story quite naive. She was determined to get into the theatre industry. But as one would expect, when she gets her big break she turns into a huge diva and only get worse over the years. In fact by the time she was in her late twenties, early thirties I think (around the time she was huge in the theatre world but just worrying about getting old) I couldn't believe I used to like her! She was just awful in the way she treated people, her friends and her husband, quite a lot of the time I wanted to strangle her!

Finally, Jennifer was beautiful but not that talented, not that special. Yet I actually kind of liked her. She was very aware that all she had was her looks, and that might have made her superficial but as least she knew that about herself! As for her back story, that just made my heart ache. 

One thing that made this difficult to read was the horrible dated language about anyone different, especially LGBT and women. But it was portraying a dog-eat-dog world, cruel and vicious, so why would their language be any different? All in all, while I do have mixed feelings about some things, I did really enjoy it. It gave such a glamorous world a reality check and seeing how cutthroat and ruthless some people could be to get what they want was a little terrifying but the mad variety of characters was what made this.

Published May 2008 by Little. First published 1966.

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