Valley of the Dolls

by Jacqueline Susann


There is good soap opera, and there is bad soap opera.  Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls was a literary sensation in 1966 (it was the top-selling book that year), and it’s easy to see why:  It’s juicy and entertaining.  Part of the enjoyment comes from trying to decode former actress Susann’s roman a clef.  The penniless singer who becomes a major star, then succumbs to alcohol and pills – is she based on Judy Garland?  The boom-voiced Broadway battle-axe – is it Ethel Merman?

Susann’s prose is occasionally dreadful, and her story about three Cosmo Girls trying to make it in New York and Hollywood show business, circa 1945-65, is quaint by today’s standards, but her gossipy style is infectious and her themes about doing whatever it takes to achieve love, fame, and success in America are timeless.


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