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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