|Now||2023||Previous||Articles||Road Essays||Road Reviews||Author||Black Authors||Title||Source||Age||Genre||Series||Format||Inclusivity||LGBTA||Portfolio||Artwork||WIP|
The Biograph Girl: 12/20/22
The Biograph Girl by William J. Mann is about a man who ends up interviewing the first movie star and learning about her incredible life, and then how he profits off her. The blurb makes is sound more interesting, describing: "a wild roller-coaster ride through the 20th century, led by a sassy, chain-smoking 107-year-old actress named Florence Lawrence." Oh how I wish that were true.
The novel opens with a banger. Florence is in the morgue staring at the body of a woman who could be her doppelgänger. She's going to switch identities with the corpse, essentially faking her own death so she can leave the rat race that is Hollywood.
But then we flash-forward to 1995 to a retirement home. In comes the actual main characters to interview an old man. Unfortunately he died in his sleep after breakfast. So instead the nun introduces him to 107 year old Florence. The problem is the main characters are entitled Boomers on the cusp of being Gen-Xers.
I really hoped the novel would spend most of its time on Flo's life. As in, I hoped the annoying present day folks would be a framing device showing up only briefly as narrative punctuation like the grandfather does in The Princess Bride. No luck.
Nor is there any sense of a timeline for Florence's life. Things rock back and forth from before faking her death to afterwards. The things she reminisces about seem thematic. On the one had we get the experience of listening to a dotty old lady (even though she's described as whip-smart). On the other hand, there's nothing in the way of segues between scenes or between different moments in time.