The Nonfiction Files is a weekly journal of my adventures reading my toppling piles of nonfiction books. I won't be posting reviews, but rather my thoughts about what I'm reading, while I'm reading it.
My current read is American Eve by Paula Uruburu. You can read my first post about this book here.
Synopsis from publisher:
By the time of her sixteenth birthday in 1900, Evelyn Nesbit was known to millions as the most photographed woman of her era, an iconic figure who set the standard for female beauty, and whose innocent sexuality was used to sell everything from chocolates to perfume. Women wanted to be her. Men just wanted her. But when Evelyn’s life of fantasy became all too real and her insanely jealous millionaire husband, Harry K. Thaw, murdered her lover, New York City architect Stanford White, the most famous woman in the world became infamous as she found herself at the center of the “Crime of the Century” and a scandal that signaled the beginning of a national obsession with youth, beauty, celebrity, and sex.
As Evelyn's story continues, her mother moves them to New York, where she believes Evelyn's looks can bring her an even more lucrative career. Tiring of hours upon end of modeling, being required to hold a pose and not move, Evelyn decides to try her hand at acting, landing a part as a chorus girl in a Broadway show called Florodora. Here, she catches they eyes of some very rich, very predatory men, chief among them the famous architect Standford White. Her relationship, and subsequent affair, with White is the basis for the tragic events that are soon to take place in her young life.
It is becoming very clear that Evelyn's story is not going to end well. She has almost no adult supervision or guidance - it's unfathomable to me that her mother would allow her 16 year old daughter into the situations Evelyn's mother allows her to be in. The author seems to believe that some of the reason behind that is the mother's naivete about New York society - honestly, it comes across as simple uncaring. Evelyn is a great meal ticket, so whatever it takes to keep the money flowing is just fine. It's sad that most of the bad things that happen, and are going to happen, would probably have been avoided if her mother had just said, "No! You are going to Stay Home Tonight."
I commented in the last post about the "gossipy" tone of the book - it's becoming a little tiresome. The author uses SO MANY adjectives - in one paragraph alone, she describes Evelyn's enchanting face, supple figure, dazzling talent, dainty feet, and calls her a little looker. I think perhaps she chose this style to mirror the feel of the day, but I would be happy with a few less adjectives.
I'm still wrapped up in the story itself, however. The idea of whether or not allowing children to be in the public eye at a young age is exploitation is a hot topic right now - yes, Jon and Kate, I'm thinking of you - and Evelyn's story certainly shows the darker side of that early public attention. The author quotes the adult Evelyn as saying, "I do not know that to be brought into the public eye so young is the happiest of experiences." I have a feeling that what I'm about to read is part of the reason she holds that opinion.