Release date: January 22, 2019
Genre: Historical Fiction
It is 1914, and twenty-five-year-old Frances Marion has left her (second) husband and her Northern California home for the lure of Los Angeles, where she is determined to live independently as an artist. But the word on everyone’s lips these days is “flickers”–the silent moving pictures enthralling theatergoers. Turn any corner in this burgeoning town and you’ll find made-up actors running around, as a movie camera captures it all.
In this fledgling industry, Frances finds her true calling: writing stories for this wondrous new medium. She also makes the acquaintance of actress Mary Pickford, whose signature golden curls and lively spirit have earned her the title “America’s Sweetheart.” The two ambitious young women hit it off instantly, their kinship fomented by their mutual fever to create, to move audiences to a frenzy, to start a revolution.
But their ambitions are challenged by both the men around them and the limitations imposed on their gender–and their astronomical success could come at a price. As Mary, the world’s highest paid and most beloved actress, struggles to live her life under the spotlight, she also wonders if it is possible to find love, even with the dashing actor Douglas Fairbanks. Frances, too, longs to share her life with someone. As in any good Hollywood story, dramas will play out, personalities will clash, and even the deepest friendships might be shattered.
With cameos from such notables as Charlie Chaplin, Louis B. Mayer, Rudolph Valentino, and Lillian Gish, The Girls in the Picture is, at its heart, a story of friendship and forgiveness. Melanie Benjamin brilliantly captures the dawn of a glittering new era–its myths and icons, its possibilities and potential, and its seduction and heartbreak.
When I pick up a historical fiction novel I’m always super curious to see if I’ll learn something new, if maybe a previously unknown (to me) piece of history will be revealed and in The Girls in the Picture I learned so much more than I had hoped for. Benjamin clearly spent so much time researching the very beginnings of Hollywood and this paid off in a big way, I was utterly fascinated by this story and totally enraptured throughout.
This follows two real women in history, Mary Pickford and her best friend Frances Marion from the time they were teenagers all the way up until they were elderly. The bulk of the story focuses on them at the height of their respective careers as they led the way for women to work successfully in Hollywood. I found both of these women to be so interesting, both were spitfires in their own right, strong, smart and unafraid. Seeing how they paved the way for the young women that came behind them was so inspiring, so many of the messages are still relevant today.
I recommend this one for fans of not only well written HF, but also those that are interested in the birth of Hollywood, this was impeccably researched and such a richly detailed tale of two women’s incredible lives.
The Girls in the Picture in three words: Enthralling, Empowering and Smart.
Overall rating: 4/5
Thanks to Wumderkind PR for my review copy.