Friday, August 1, 2014

American Blonde: A Novel by Jennifer Niven

American Blonde: A Novel. Jennifer Niven. Plume Books. July 2014. 416 pp.  ISBN#: 9780452298210.

Velva Jean Hart returns to America as a WASP war heroine, having rescued her own brother from the enemy and having endured that same enemy’s brutal treatment.  But now all is glory and as the world celebrates the end of the war, she and her brother are caught up in the newsreels, making her famously beloved in the eyes of America! 

Her return home is brief as she receives a phenomenal offer of an actress job with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer films.  There it seems like a fairy tale as she is trained in acting, voice, etc and remade in the image of “Kit Rogers.”  She is about to be casted as Betsy Ross in a war picture that the company hopes will become famous as well as a box favorite in sales.  Meanwhile, while this whirlwind of a change begins to develop, Velva Jean gets to know her fellow actors, actresses, directors, stage hands, a novelist and script writer, as well as a former boyfriend and her brother who has begun what seems to be a successful singing career. 

Velva Jean’s best friend, also a former WASP, is Mudge, also a hugely popular actress who has several secret lovers and seems to love the booze a bit too much.  However, she is a loyal and fervent friend to Velva Jean, giving her a home and important tips about their profession.  She’s also quite frank about how Metro owns them and runs their lives, but she finds ways around their machinations, all of which proves to be mysterious to Velva Jean.  All seems like a fairy tale world to Velva Jean, but she’s also a smart character who is always observing and assessing the obvious facts and circumstances, as well as the double standard of lies, secrets and deceptions all too real in this Golden Hollywood Age.  Stardom is costly it seems in more ways than one!
The bubble crashes one night at a party when Velva Jean finds her best friend dead.  The remainder of the novel is about her efforts to find out who killed her, even though MGM does everything in their immense power to cover up the murder and couch it as an accident.  Velva Jean knows she will lose everything she has worked so hard to obtain if she continues seeking the truth but her integrity is far stronger than her fear of the stooges following and threatening her.  In the course of this exploration, she will find out what kind of person she really is, the tough stuff she’s made of, and discover a world of possibility  that she had never dreamed of previously.

American Blonde: A Novel is wonderfully constructed, with an amazingly shocking end showing the story to be a great thriller as well as a work of romance and historical fiction.  Highly recommended – loved this story!!! Watch for more from this writer – someone who hopefully will go far!

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