Library Journal Review
Benjamin (The Swans of Fifth Avenue) imagines the friendship of scenarist and later screenwriter Frances Marion with silent screen star Mary Pickford, America's Sweetheart. Alternating chapters tell of their meeting and how they navigate the tumultuous world of the silent movies-"flickers"-as women. Cameos from such notables as Charlie Chaplin, Louis B. Mayer, Rudolph Valentino, and Lillian Gish add historic zest to a tale that plumbs the cost of fame and the price of image. Actress Kimberly Farr imbues the voices of Marion and Pickford with texture and color. The Marion chapters are in first person and seem stronger than do those featuring Pickford, which are in third person. Farr uses just the right combination of steel and sweetness to make Pickford believable. VERDICT Recommended for fans of historic fiction and early Hollywood. ["This engrossing and rewarding read provides the same mixture of well-researched plot and fascinating characters who have made Benjamin's previous novels so outstanding": LJ 9/1/17 starred review of the Delacorte hc.]-David Faucheux, Lafayette, LA © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Benjamin (The Swans of Fifth Avenue) escorts readers through the rise and fall of Hollywood's silent film era by following a friendship and creative collaboration that helped birth the earliest movies: the fruitful, testy bond between the "scenarist" and eventual screenwriter, Frances Marion, and Mary Pickford, a troubled early star. The novel is framed by a reunion late in their lives, in 1969, but focuses on the 1910s and '20s: Marion's and Pickford's meeting, initial closeness and collaboration, marriages and tragedies, and diverging fates in Hollywood. Chapters alternate between the two women's perspectives-Marion's sections (written in first person) buzz with her idiosyncratic understanding of her place within the silent film industry, but Pickford's (puzzlingly, in third person) are used to move the narrative forward and feel lackluster in comparison. Benjamin's prose and particularly her dialogue are flatly contemporary; conversations between characters lack period nuance, and, while Marion's and Pickford's protofeminism is based on substantial research, it is telegraphed mainly in clunky 21st-century sound bites: "[men] felt that a woman among them was an aberration of nature... and assumed I was there for one purpose only." However, the heady, infectious energy of the fledgling film industry in Los Angeles is convincingly conveyed-and the loving but competitive friendship between these two women on the rise in a man's world is a powerful source of both tension and relatability. Agent: Laura Langlie, Laura Langlie Agency (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Booklist Review
Benjamin's (The Swans of Fifth Avenue, 2016) latest stylish historical novel transports readers to Hollywood's early days and views the rise and fall of silent films through the friendship between one of the era's most dazzling stars, Mary Pickford, and Frances Marion, who rose to prominence as a screenwriter. Mary and Frances instantly hit it off when they meet in 1914 as young women in their twenties. For Mary, meeting Frances gives her the opportunity to have a true friend who isn't a potential rival, and for Frances, Mary helps launch her career by hiring Frances to write films for her. The two defy the expectations of male studio heads when their first big collaboration, The Poor Little Rich Girl, turns into a megahit. But as the years go by, professional jealousy and their respective romances Mary's with a married costar and Frances' with a minister turned actor strain their bond. Benjamin immerses readers in the whirlwind excitement of Mary's and Frances' lives while portraying a rarely seen character, an early woman screenwriter, and deftly exploring the complexities of female friendship.--Huntley, Kristine Copyright 2017 Booklist