In this book, Barbara Leaming has looked deep into the archives to discover the life of a woman who captured the hearts and imaginations of millions before her tragic death.
Oddly, the book is untraditional in that it starts with her meeting Arthur Miller for the first time. Perhaps with so many books about the blonde bombshell, this book needed to delve in at a different point with a new structure, but for me, I felt discomforted the whole way through and wanted to go back and ask loads of questions about the life before, about the little girl Norma Jean.
I do enjoy a Marilyn Monroe movie, there certainly is something about her that makes you want to stare at her and see what she’ll do next. She’s fascinating. But I’ve always felt like she was a sad figure, not someone you’d want to ever be like. However, I heard a little about her childhood, her mothers mental illness, being brought up in foster homes, sexually abused, and married off at 16 to a neighbour! I suddenly felt like I’d judged her a little harshly, and wanted to hear more about this remarkable woman.
A lot of this history is glossed over in this book, with the focus on the time when she was trying hard to make it in Hollywood, her desperate actions to stay afloat, to her meeting Miller, and becoming a huge star. In this book she comes across as quite manipulative, perhaps she was. But the focus on her need to be accepted, to gain respect as a human being through being an actress and her desire to find one person she could trust and cling to. Leaming does an excellent job of focusing on this period, right up to her death, in great detail. It’s a truly fascinating and sad story, and perhaps Monroe does not always come across well, but the insight into her behaviour and what drove her is all there.
It’s a tragic story, and a well researched document of a life, which I recommend to fans, but I do still feel like I want to know more about the girl before, the circumstances that created the Norma Jean who so desperately courted fame and used her sexuality to get it.
Read It If: you’re a fan of the star, it’s a good book with interesting photos and loads of facts and insight into her death, but if you’re looking for her earlier life story, it’s a little scanty.