Now known as the book that started it all (all being the Chick-lit or more specifically the Roman a clef genre) Valley of The Dolls is a story about three young girls who descend on New York City with not much more than a dollar and a dream and all of the other necessary cliches that good Chick-lit has come to demand. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t read it and when I spied it at my local bookshop I couldn’t resist.
Written by Jaqueline Susann in 1966, the book was a runaway hit and went on to sell 30 million copies spinning off a movie, two TV miniseries and a radio show.
The likes of Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, Ethel Merman and Carole Landis are thought to be the inspiration behind some of the characters in the book as the author, Jacqueline Susann, was herself an actress and had access behind the scenes. The Dolls referenced in the title and throughout the book are a nickname for barbiturates and downers that were exceedingly popular in Hollywood and on Broadway at the time.
Anne moves to New York from a small town in Massachusetts to escape her cloying mother and the certain destiny of an arranged marriage. She is determined to get a job, support herself and fall in love. Upon moving into a shabby rooming house she meets Neely, a scrappy vaudeville performer who is young, but has seen it all. The two become friends and after some prodding, Anne suggests Neely for a role in a play that the firm she is working at has an interest. Neely lands the gig and during the play’s run the two meet Jennifer.
Jennifer is all the beauty that Neely is missing but unfortunately only half the talent. She has also had a tough life, and found that using her beauty was the only way to escape. Tragedy strikes all three of these women as they battle it out for love and respect in the small world of Broadway to Hollywood and beyond.
Drug addiction, misplaced love, fame and friendship are all brought to light in this coming of age story that although dated, seems to convincingly still ring unfortunately true. All that glitters certainly isn’t gold and narrative dispels any myth of otherwise.
If you want to see where it all began, where the likes of Jackie Collins and Danielle Steel got their inspiration, I recommend picking up Valley of The Dolls. The plot twists might make your head spin, but you’ll enjoy the ride. Especially poolside.
p.s. I was able to read quite a bit on vacation so stay tuned for my posts on two books by Nora Ephron, Paris I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down and Freakanomics.