Review: The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin

The Girls in the PictureTitle: The Girls in the Picture

Author: Melanie Benjamin

Pages: 422 Pages

Publisher: Delacorte Press

The Blurb

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Swans of Fifth Avenue and The Aviator’s Wife, a fascinating novel of the friendship and creative partnership between two of Hollywood’s earliest female legends—screenwriter Frances Marion and superstar Mary Pickford

It is 1914, and twenty-five-year-old Frances Marion has left her (second) husband and her Northern California home for the lure of Los Angeles, where she is determined to live independently as an artist. But the word on everyone’s lips these days is “flickers”—the silent moving pictures enthralling theatergoers. Turn any corner in this burgeoning town and you’ll find made-up actors running around, as a movie camera captures it all.

In this fledgling industry, Frances finds her true calling: writing stories for this wondrous new medium. She also makes the acquaintance of actress Mary Pickford, whose signature golden curls and lively spirit have earned her the title “America’s Sweetheart.” The two ambitious young women hit it off instantly, their kinship fomented by their mutual fever to create, to move audiences to a frenzy, to start a revolution.

But their ambitions are challenged by both the men around them and the limitations imposed on their gender—and their astronomical success could come at a price. As Mary, the world’s highest paid and most beloved actress, struggles to live her life under the spotlight, she also wonders if it is possible to find love, even with the dashing actor Douglas Fairbanks. Frances, too, longs to share her life with someone. As in any good Hollywood story, dramas will play out, personalities will clash, and even the deepest friendships might be shattered.

With cameos from such notables as Charlie Chaplin, Louis B. Mayer, Rudolph Valentino, and Lillian Gish, The Girls in the Picture is, at its heart, a story of friendship and forgiveness. Melanie Benjamin perfectly captures the dawn of a glittering new era—its myths and icons, its possibilities and potential, and its seduction and heartbreak.

The Review

Firstly let me thank Samuel Bonner from Pengiun Random House for sending me a review copy of The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin.

I think 2018, for me, is going to be the year of historical fiction. I have recently developed a love of fictional accounts of true events and although we are only half a month into the year this genre has already become quite favourable.

The Girls in the Picture tells the story of the epic birth of motion pictures in Hollywood. It looks at the development of silent movies and how it grew into films that were referred to as ‘talkies’. All of this is told through the eyes of Hollywood legend Mary Pickford and pioneering screenwriter Frances Marion. The golden age of Hollywood was very much a boys club but some women really did have their fingers on the pulses of what was wanted in the world of film.

Pickford and Marion had a working relationship alongside their friendship and this is their story…or at least Melanie Benjamin’s fictional account. The progression of their working relationship led to the development of the film industry as we know it which is discussed in depth in the novel. However, it is the fractured nature of their relationship juxtaposed with the disintegration of Pickford’s career that is the real pull of the novel.

The Girls in the Picture is not a fast passed novel by any stretch of the imagination. It is a slow read which allows you to paint a picture of a time – and indeed the people – that Hollywood has forgot. It also comes at a very poignant time as the #metoo campaign and the equal pay in Hollywood argument is so fervent. The pioneering efforts of Marion and Pickford (and other women during that time period) still have relevance today.

The Girls in the Picture by Melanie Benjamin is available now.

For more information regarding Melanie Benjamin (@MelanieBen) please visit www.melaniebenjamin.com.

For more information regarding Delacorte Press (@DelacortePress) please visit their Twitter page.

3 Stars

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