Saturday, October 12, 2013

Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures - a Novel by Emma Straub

Published by Riverhead Books

From a summer playhouse theatre on a Wisconsin farm to an award-winning star, this novel is an intoxicating blend of the siren's song of the stage and the dreams of a little girl. Encompassing the life of Elsa Emerson over a period of close to fifty years beginning in 1929, this piece is less to do with star-struck wannabees and drug-addled has-beens but more to do with love of family and love of acting as Elsa becomes Laura Lamont. Several tragedies play out that propel Laura to become what she has always dreamed of, an actress. She marries one of the young actors performing at the summer theatre her father directs, and runs away to Hollywood with him. But she is always haunted with the memory of her sister Hildy, a sister whose dream Laura often feels she is living.

Laura's depth of soul is what brings her to fame as she portrays her characters. The title of the book I felt refers to the very descriptive telling of the story...a story told in word pictures. An upsetting incident with her family when she wins the Oscar leaves Laura/Elsa split, grieving and feeling a sense of betrayal to her family, especially to the memory of her dead sister. Laura is not quite the usual film star. Family means every bit as much to her as her career. She loves her children, her husband and her Wisconsin family but her mother comes just short of disowning her. Laura owes a large percentage of her successful career to her second husband, the director of her movies, but this is a good, honest and loving relationship, no shoddy affair, and Irving treats Laura's two girls as his own. When Laura bears him a son, the family is complete.

Emma Straub has plumbed the depths of Hollywood, TV and stage scenarios. From black and white to full color and 3-D, this is the 'Golden Age of Hollywood.' She explores how the innards of Hollywood work, how the directors achieve the best they can out of their actors, and how the actors immerse themselves into their characters. There is glamour in the book, but more, there is true life with all its ups and downs, the good, the bad, the true actors and the ones on the fringes of acceptance. It is certainly not all joy and lightness, especially for Laura and Irving, because of his delicate health. This book is a roller-coaster of personalities, despair, deep emotions of all kinds. This character-driven story is probably a truer view of the world of acting and movies than most, because it gets right into the heart of that world.

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