Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Nonfiction Files

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, and my second post 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.

My thoughts so far:

This third section of the book was very difficult to read. Evelyn's relationship with "Stanny" is starting to wilt, and things take a definite downward turn. Her mother, unable to see Evelyn as anything but a paycheck, sabotages the only healthy, loving relationship Evelyn ever has - with then-struggling actor John Barrymore. And then Harry Thaw enters her life, and the situation (unbelievably) goes from bad to worse.

Thaw has been obsessed with Evelyn for some time, and begins pursuing her relentlessly. Her mother, true to form, basically abandons her on a trip abroad, and Harry viciously attacks Evelyn. Once home, Harry blames his abuse on "temporary insanity", and continues his suit. Evelyn, seeing her prospects drying up, eventually relents, and marries Harry.

This part of the book has just been a recounting of one abuse after another, both physical and emotional, that the people in Evelyn's life have perpetrated against her. Her short relationship with John Barrymore is the first time she seems to have found someone who truly loves her, but it is doomed from the beginning, as both her mother and Stanford White are bent on sabotaging it. When Thaw enters the picture, he seems to care for her with no ulterior motive, but it soon becomes clear that his hatred for White is a much more motivating force than his concern for Evelyn.

Evelyn said, "Some women have a conscience; some have a sense of self-preservation; they frequently exist together, but most often one does duty for the other." Her choice to marry Thaw was clearly the latter - having thoroughly ruined her reputation, Thaw ensured that she had no other choices. Evelyn's life is tragic because the people who should have cared for her abandoned her, and the people who didn't abandon her abused her trust and forced her into situations she never would have chosen for herself.

Next week I will finish up with this book, and it will almost be a relief - this has been an engrossing read, but Evelyn's story has been filled with so much sadness. I'll be ready for a change in tone.


Zibilee said...

This book sounds so sad. I think that some of the aspects of Evelyn's life were so tragic, and her mother sounds like a monster. I still want to read this book, and have put it on my list, but I might have to wait for the right time to get to it. Great reviews on this one!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it really does sound sad. It seems tragically true that the bigger a person becomes, the further they tend to fall.

Carrie K said...

Her life was so sad and it could have been so perfect! Stage mothers and stalkers. Not a great combination for a good life, particularly back in those days.

Lisa said...

This one sounds really interesting! It's so sad to see that very little has changed for women - they are still vulnerable to men who can ruin their reputations with innuendo and stage-mothers are still allowed to treat their kids as a meal ticket. It is defintely on my reading list.